Students compete in district spelling bee

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 8, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Winning the district spelling bee was no dilemma for sixth-grader Robert Yount.
The West Rowan Middle School student barely batted an eyelash as he rattled off the correct spellings of calzone, inflammable, carnage and dilemma Tuesday in front of a packed house at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s Teaching Auditorium.
Although he looked cool as a cucumber on the outside, Robert said he was feeling the pressure when his peers missed the first four words in the third round, making him the last man standing.
At that point, Karl Hales, a retired Catawba College professor who served as the master of ceremonies, told Robert that if he spelled the next two words correctly, he’d clinch the title of top speller.
“I could feel my heart beating through my shirt, my eyes were getting real wide and my hands were starting to get sweaty,” Robert said.
But after it was all over Tuesday, Robert admitted the words weren’t as difficult as he had anticipated.
“They were medium,” he said.
The 12-year-old had been practicing at home for between 30 minutes and an hour every night since he won the West Middle’s spelling bee.
“My dad has been helping me study,” he said. “He’s been calling out the words and telling me how to pronounce them.”
Robert beat out his brother, eighth-grader Tony Yount, during the finals of the school spelling bee before advancing to the district finals. He went into Tuesday’s competition looking to take home first place after coming in fifth last year.
“I’m very proud of them both for getting as far as they did,” Jennifer Yount, Robert and Tony’s mother, said. “I’m thrilled for Robert because he eye-balled that prize last year.”
The spelling bee wrapped up in less than an hour Tuesday, with more than half of the participants getting knocked out in the first round after misspelling words such as pursuit, hostile and juvenile.
A dozen students entered the second round, where whimsical, fedora, compromise, correspondence and hospice tripped up the spellers, leaving five students to compete in the third and final round.
Although the four students misspelled words like epilepsy and tentativeness, they still took home runner-up honors.
Those students are: Overton Elementary’s Brian Engwall, Shive Elementary’s Hunter Christy, North Rowan Middle’s Ava Drexel and Woodleaf Elementary’s Christopher Comacho.
Tina Mashburn, the district’s director of middle grades education, said this is the first year in recent history that there has been a four-way tie for second place.
“That’s fine. I’m happy for them,” she said.
Twenty-six students, the top spellers from each of the district’s elementary and middle schools, competed in Tuesday’s spelling bee for fifth through eighth graders.
“You’re already winners,” Hales told students before the start of the spelling bee. “We’re just looking for the No. 1 winner.”
Each student was awarded a trophy and certificate.
Robert received an iPod Touch, $25 iTunes gift card and $250 for his school for taking home the top honors. He will compete in the regional spelling bee at Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts in Winston-Salem on March 18.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.