Burkett picks up Spelling Bee crown

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2005

Before a speller can become a legend in the Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee held in Washington and broadcast on ESPN, they must first become the champion of their school. For Rickey Burkett, his road to the White House steps began Wednesday inside the gym of R.L. Austin Elementary School in Georgiana.

"I've been told it's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the competition," Burkett said.

Burkett, a sixth grader in Ms Becky York's class, defeated 22 other competitors to win the title of Champion Speller and the opportunity to advance to the County Championships in which a date has not been set.

"Younger children are better spellers than older ones," said Alton Abrams, principal of Austin Elementary as he addressed the nervous group of spellers. "Children attack the words with sounds and syllables."

Before the first word was ever pronounced by professional pronouncer and WSFA personality, Judd Davis, Retha Reed led the children in some stretching exercises.

Like athletes prepare before a game, the spellers loosened themselves and did a few breathing exercises and then were able to enjoy a practice round.

Through this round, the 23 spellers were able to feel each other and see which words would be easy, like church, bridge and rodeo. They also figured out which words were tricky like patio, banana, cereal and scarlet.

"I took the word list around the newsroom this morning before I came down here," said Davis to the participants. "I quizzed some of them on the words, and half of them would not be standing up there with you guys."

After two rounds of practice, it was time for the actual Spelling Bee it's self to commence.

Krystall Boswell, who spelled both of her practice words correctly looked to keep her streak going and did when she spelled tasteless without a doubt. Burkett was next spelling constant.

Rahkeem Hugler had no problem with organic and Alexis Boyd attacked decompose spelling it correctly and guaranteeing herself a slot into the next round.

While Boyd advanced, Matthew Colvin was eliminated from the competition thanks to the word "evaporation." Colvin struggled in the practice round with the word "robbery" as well.

Myesha Hale avoided elimination by correctly spelling the word vaporize. But, after her, Janessa Hawkins and Samantha Safarra found themselves taking a seat after misspelling saturating and fluoride, respectively.

Lindsey Odom spelled wasteful with relative ease, but the elimination bug struck once again.

This time, it took down three of the competitors. LaCory Hall fell to operation, Josie Rains fell to ethanol and Zariana Mobley was sat down after incorrectly spelling celebrate.

Justin Oikle and Jerika Hawkins stepped into the next round by correctly spelling their words.

Aleshia Cheatham struggled with the word alkaline, but after hearing the definition, she spelled the word correctly and moved her into round two.

The three potential spellers, Levi Ray, Destiny Dunn and Shanika Johnson were asked to take a seat after misspelling occupancy, aerosol and equilibrium

Sarretta Bogan broke the chain by correctly spelling misfortune to move into the second round.

Shawn Ramer was one letter away from advancing to the second round. Ramer's word was complaint and the student fell one "i" short of getting it correct, causing him to have to take a seat and watch the rest of the event.

Hanna Bradford correctly spelled expensive to advance.

Tanya Walton, however


Takia Waters was the last person to advance to the next round of the competition

"I was nervous pronouncing the words," said Davis.

"The kids had probably worked really hard studying these words and I didn't want to mess them up because I mispronounce one."

Round two moved much quicker than round one as the field of 23 had been cut down to a field of 12.

Boswell was the first one to sit down in round two.

Burkett secured his place in the third round by correctly spelling ordinary.

Hugler was eliminated by decisive while Boyd advanced with a correct spelling of memorable.

Hale was knocked out of competition by impatient, Odom was eliminated after misspelling habitual. Oikle's run ended when he misspelled congealed.

Hawkins couldn't figure out chisel and Cheatham was put out of the bee when she misspelled hysterical. Bogan sat down after failing to spell treacherous correctly, despite having asked for a definition.

After two fields, the competition had thinned it's self and was narrowed down to the final four.

Burkett's first word was lagoon. He spelled it correctly and then breathed a sigh of relief. Boyd, however had advanced to the final four, but that was as far as she went misspelling gangster.

Bradford secured her a spot in the finals by correctly spelling ambrosia. Waters had a chance to make it a three-way final, but was unable to spell charcoal correctly and in turn, had to take a seat.

It was down to the final two – Burkett and Bradford.

"I wasn't really expecting to make it this far," said Bradford.

Bradford and Burkett stood toe to toe with each other, but on her second word, Bradford stumbled and misspelled burgundy.

Burkett could have wrapped the Spelling Bee up by spelling his next two words correctly.

He spelled his first word, chocolate, with no worries. But, on the second word, russet, he stumbled and that allowed Bradford to enter back into the competition with each contestant having missed one word each.

After that, both spellers volleyed words back and forth with each other for several exchanges. After a long exchange of correctly spelled words, Bradford stumbled again, misspelling punctual. But, Burkett couldn't capitalize as he misspelled concurrent.

Bradford stumbled for a third time, misspelling immediate.

Burkett, however, was able to capitalize on his competitions error by correctly spelling the next two words – tortilla and mosquito.

After finishing the I-t-o of mosquito, Burkett gave a fist pump of accomplishment.

"I was nervous," said Burkett. "I knew the word mosquito because I had heard it before."