NEWLAND — At the most critical juncture of the Avery County Schools 42nd Annual District Spelling Bee on Thursday, Feb. 6, Caleb Caudle recited his letters in their correct order and filled the vacancy of 2019-2020 Avery County Spelling Bee champion.
Caudle, a sixth grader at Cranberry Middle School and the son of Christopher and April Caudle, correctly spelled the words “juncture” and “vacancy” to earn the first-place prize of a group pass to Grandfather Mountain. The county bee is a preliminary competition of the Scripps National Spelling Bee which is held in Washington, D.C., and Caudle, by virtue of his victory, will go on to compete in the regional spelling bee held at the Reynolds Place Theater at Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts in Winston-Salem on Sunday, March 15.
Hosted by local radio station Glory 1130 WECR, the competition was broadcast live over the airwaves throughout Avery County.
The bee was scheduled to include seven contestants representing each elementary and middle school, but Newland Elementary School winner, fifth-grader Joclyn Anderson-Dennett, was unable to attend due to illness, so six students entered the studio to vie for the title of top speller.
The competition was fierce as the youngsters went head-to-head, spelling out words like “amino,” “transistor” and “amplify,” among others. Students excelled at their spelling prowess, as the competition was one of the longest in the event’s history.
Caudle was challenged by a number of worthy competitors, including fourth-grader Landen Burnett (Riverside Elementary), fifth-grader Camdyn Corum (Freedom Trail Elementary), fifth-grader Gavin Carpenter (Banner Elk Elementary), and seventh-grader Caitlin Pittman (Avery Middle), as well as spelling bee runner-up, fifth-grader Katie Taylor of Crossnore Elementary School.
School system personnel Ellis Ayers and Ken Townsend served as judges for the event, while Avery Journal-Times Editor Jamie Shell served as pronouncer.
Each speller received a prize for advancing from their respective schools to the district competition, with gifts ranging from Chick-Fil-A gift cards to water bottles and a T-shirt courtesy of Williams YMCA of Avery County.
Following the competition, Caudle and Avery County Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman engaged in an on-air interview with WECR station manager Phillip Greene, as Caudle shared that he was “a little nervous” about the event but was confident that he could pull off the victory “against a lot of other great spellers.”
“We had some great spellers and some amazing young people with us today,” Brigman said of the students gathered for the event. “I want to congratulate Caleb and wish him well as he moves forward to represent not only Cranberry Middle School but all of Avery County Schools at the state level.”