BY KAREN CAMPBELL
Weakley County Schools Communications Director
WEAKLEY COUNTY (December 3) – A fierce competition/contest/match took place in Westview’s theater on December 3, but the competitors/contenders/challengers were battling not for points on a scoreboard but, rather, correctly-spelled words.
At stake was the title of District Spelling Bee Champion, a trophy and prize money. Twelve school runners up and champions took the stage and Gleason’s Luke Lawrence claimed the title.
All six of the school champions had already won the opportunity to proceed to the next phase of the Tennessee Titans Regional Spelling Bee – an online test of spelling and vocabulary which will see the top 50 scores advance to a state meet tentatively scheduled for Nashville in the spring.
Lawrence, a seventh-grader who was 2019 district runner up, received the 2020 championship trophy and $100. Matthew Klutts, a fifth-grader at Martin Elementary, is the runner up and received a trophy and $50. All participants received medallions and certificates.
With most travel and field trips cancelled due to COVID-19 precautions, Spelling Bee Coordinator Terri Stephenson was concerned the spelling competition might be put on hold as well. She was pleased when Weakley County Schools Director Randy Frazier let her know that if social distancing could be observed, the bee was a go.
Stephenson knew the Board of Education’s conference room, the usual site for the competition would be too small to accommodate the teachers, administrators and family members who have traditionally supported the students. She turned to Westview High School Principal Jeromy Davidson and got enthusiastic confirmation to use the theater.
The stage, lighting and audience seating added a certain formality to the proceedings as Betsi Foster, serving as pronouncer for the event, reviewed the rules. Judges Jessica Glasgow, Donald Ray High, and Jeff Kelley were seated directly in front of the microphone and added a touch of drama as well.
Foster began by allowing the participants to get a feel for the microphone by asking for their names, schools and grades. She then followed up each introduction with a sample word selected for its simplicity. After proving they could master dog, cat, jog and mop, the participants then moved on to the real showdown.
Students began dropping off in the second round. A large group fell in the fifth. Then Nate Tarver, Klutts and Lawrence spelled their way through the seventh round when Tarver was felled by “abruptly.”
Klutts stumbled on “condemn” in the eighth round, but so did Lawrence when he was confronted with “gauntlet.” That meant Klutts returned to the mic for round nine. He offered up the spelling of “ruckus” rather than the requested “raucous” and waited to see if Lawrence would meet the same fate.
Lawrence then successfully called out each letter of “encore,” and then following Spelling Bee rules, went on to master “revelation” in round 9 to claim the prize.
“Our students and their supporters – teachers, administrators, moms, dads and siblings – are to be commended for helping continue this academic tradition,” said Stephenson. “I’m very proud of our students and wish all the champions well as they move to the state online competition,” she added.
The statewide competition is sponsored by the Tennessee Titans.
Participants in the 2020 Weakley County Spelling Bee were:
Dresden Middle School
Winner: Britney Bell, daughter of Glen and Penny Bell
Runner-Up: Nate Tarver, son of Patrick and Casondra Tarver
Winner: Luke Lawrence, son of Lee and Amy Lawrence
Runner-Up: Jake O’Connor, son of Mike and Kristy O’Connor
Winner: Brenley Little, daughter of Brent and Leslie Little
Runner-Up: Cruze Porter, son of Andrew and Candace Porter
Martin Elementary School
Winner: Ellie Freeman, daughter of John and Amanda Freeman
Runner-Up: Matthew Klutts, son of James and Erika Klutts
Martin Middle School
Winner: McKinley Fortner, son of Josh and Brittany Fortner
Runner-Up: Alina Vo, daughter of Peter and Lisa Vo
Winner: Joshua Freeman, son of Sean and Valerie Freeman
Runner-Up: Caelyn Milam, daughter of Audrea Milam