CHINA GROVE — The winner of the Rowan-Salisbury School System spelling bee Tuesday started practicing early.
Sarah Grooms once told her kindergarten teacher that her work was too easy, according to her parents, Salisbury residents Donna and Damon.
The teacher sent her home with an assignment to spell “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” a fictitious word featured in the musical and film, “Mary Poppins.”
“The next day, Sarah went right back and spelled the word for her,” Donna Grooms said.
Sarah, now a fifth-grade student at Elizabeth Koontz Elementary School, took first place in the district-wide spelling bee Tuesday evening at Jesse C. Carson High School in China Grove.
Contestants were 27 top spellers from the elementary and middle schools in the Rowan-Salisbury system.
Tripped up by words like “disparage” and “beguile,” the group of students on the stage slowly shrank through five rounds of spelling until the contest came down to the last two.
Other words that helped whittle down the field included “amateurish,” “authoritative,” “chastise,” “commodity,” “deodorant,” “arbitrary” and “compunction.”
Then there was “dipilatory.”
Sentence, please? the student asked.
“Hank was grounded for mixing a dipilatory with his sister’s shampoo,” moderator Karl Hales said, to chuckles from the audience.
A dipilatory is used to remove hair.
Eventually, the field narrowed to just Sarah and Austin Kirkman, a student at C.C. Erwin Middle School. The two spent four more rounds matching each other word-for-word.
Austin successfully spelled “ineluctable” – not to be avoided, changed or resisted – “protuberant,” “polymathic” and “artifice” before stumbling over the word “incandescence.”
Sarah had to get the next word right in order to claim first place. When she quickly and quietly spelled the word “nuance,” the district had its champion.
Other words Sarah conquered include “giantesque,” “fabulist” – a creator or writer of fables – “malachite” and “cadre.”
As the second place runner-up, Austin won an iPod and a one-year family membership to the YMCA.
As district champion, Sarah will represent the Rowan-Salisbury School System in the Winston-Salem Journal Regional Spelling Bee on March 24. She also won an iPad and a one-year family membership to the YMCA.
“It’s really cool, and I’m glad I got to do it,” Grooms said. “It’s all because my God helped me.”
On Tuesday, Sarah said she prepared for the district-wide spelling bee with “nonstop studying.”
Her parents said they would take turns reading words to her so she could spell them.
“She helped us pronounce some of the words, saying ‘Mom, you’re not pronouncing it right,’” Donna Grooms said, laughing. “Then we had to get the dictionary out and look up the meaning of some of the words on the Internet.”
Damon Grooms said his daughter is a “straight-A” student who loves to learn.
“She studied hard for this,” he said. “She deserves it.”
Other participants in the 2013 District Spelling Bee were Kendall Wilson, Michaela Hallman, Brandon Kimberlin, Steven Wilmot, Addi Watson, Jacob Rhodes, Corina Caskey, Macy Cooper, Macy Abramson, Olivia Kesler, Ikechi Dimkpa, Ashley Lore, Kevin Sullivan, Shania Mastan, Daniel George, Heaven Thornton, Corey Snodgrass, Olivia Schumacher, Jonathan Romero, Kenneth Alvarado, Myles Cannon, Samantha Brown, Kelly Real, Sean Benware and Skylar Jahnke.
Elizabeth Cook contributed to this story.