Thirty students took part in a verbal battle royale at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School on Thursday, as the school held its spelling bee for third- to fifth-graders.
But by the end of Round 7, only three spellers were left standing; fourth-grader Elizabeth Lavelle and fifth-graders Gehrig Tucker and Raghavi Anand.
Elizabeth kept pace with the older students into Round 8, when she faltered at a word she later said she was unfamiliar with, "beeline."
Rounds 8 and 9 passed with Gehrig and Raghavi spelling more than 40 words correctly. They performed with confidence, often asking the judges to define words or use them in a sentence so they would be clear on what to do. "Adhesion," "immortal," "admiral" and "siesta" were all spelled correctly. The two dueled through Round 9.
Then Gehrig attempted "acceptance," spelling it "ecceptance." A loud groan was heard from the boys in the room.
Raghavi spelled the word correctly, then correctly spelled "optimism" to win the first spelling bee.
She will receive a $50 gift certificate to the school's book fair, donated by the PTA.
Both of her parents were on hand to watch Raghavi triumph.
"She has always been good at sounds and words," said her father, Anand Vijayaraghavan.
Raghavi said she also enjoys math at school, and hopes to be a pediatrician.
Gehrig, who likes spelling and English best, said earlier he spelled the word "accepted" correctly and "got messed up on 'acceptance." He wasn't upset that his friend Raghavi won.
He wants to be a baseball player and plays on the Bordewich-Bray team. "Last year we won the championship," he boasted.
Elizabeth said she was looking forward to next year's bee.
"I just like to spell a lot," she said. "I help my dad spell words."
She isn't looking to English as a career, though, saying she wants to be a nurse like her mom.
Principal Sue Keema was pleased with the way the event, put together by a committee of teachers, turned out.
She said the idea for the spelling bee came from students, who have seen the movie "Aquila and the Bee."
The judges, all retired teachers, started by giving students words like "era," "wicked," and "heard," but by the end, spellers were hearing "excellent" and "atmospheric."
The tension was high and support for the participants tended to follow gender lines, as boys groaned when a boy missed a word and girls did the same when a girl faltered.
Rounds 4 and 5 saw the ranks of spellers thinning considerably, with students dropping words like pencils and heading out to get their green "participant" ribbon.
"Scenic," "rascal," "impair" and "lodging" were all words that sent fresh-faced spellers back to the audience.
One boy, unsure of the word "sniggle," spelled it with his voice rising slightly at the end, as if he were asking a question. He gave an audible sigh of relief after the judge said, "That's correct."
Only nine spellers were left at the end of Round 5.
Keema said the words were chosen from a universally used list appropriate for their grade level.
The first- and second-graders will have their spelling bee today.