LIVINGSTON -- Collin Sprouse said he was half-guessing.
He guessed right.
Sprouse, a sixth-grader at North Corbin Junior High, emerged victorious in The News’ 37th Annual Spelling Bee at the Livingston Parish Fairgrounds on Tuesday, Oct. 8.
Pitted against 21 of the top-spelling sixth-graders in Livingston Parish, Sprouse won first place after correctly spelling the word “constituent” in the 12th round. The bee featured 12 schools, 22 contestants, 16 total rounds, 115 words, and one champion — Sprouse, who wasn’t even sure if he had spelled the word correctly at the time.
“I was half-guessing,” Sprouse said shyly. “When he said I won, all I thought was, ‘Wow.’”
Emory Cooks, also of North Corbin Junior High, and Tristan Acosta of Maurepas claimed second and third place, respectively.
The spelling bee was hosted by the Livingston Parish Fair, which is in the midst of its 82nd run that ends Sunday, Oct. 13. Participating schools held spelling competitions earlier in the year and were allowed to send a winner and runner-up (or an alternate) to the parish-wide competition.
McHugh David, publisher and editor of The News, served as the bee’s pronouncer. He introduced each of the contestants before their turns on stage and called out the words for them to spell.
The three-judge panel of former teachers Louis Wax, Karen Schmitt, and Margaret Harris was the final authority on the correctness of each spelling and also responsible for making sure spellers followed the rules — pronounce the word, spell the word, pronounce the word again.
After introducing the judges, David read through the rules before quizzing the contestants in a practice round to help them get comfortable speaking at the microphone on stage.
Then the real spelling began.
Four of the 22 contestants were lost after the first round: Myrie McMorris of French Settlement Elementary, Madison Sauerwin of Springfield Middle, Kaia Juban of Juban Parc Junior High, and Navaeh Kellum of Doyle.
Four more were eliminated in the second round: Cameron Balfantz of Maurepas, Cole Curtis and Bri’el Sheffield of Southside Junior High, and Annabelle Lejeune of Westside Junior High.
The third round saw another seven spellers get cut, including three of the first five when Grace Arnold of Holden, Sean Harris of Juban Parc Junior High, and Raylee Daigo of Frost were ousted.
Springfield Middle’s Phoenix Webb, Doyle’s Marlie McCormick, French Settlement Elementary’s Wyatt Spears, and Holden’s Mollie Bailey were also eliminated, leaving behind seven contestants entering the fourth round.
That’s when the competition grew tense.
All seven contestants survived the next three rounds, whizzing through words one after the other. The next elimination didn’t come until the seventh round, when Live Oak Middle’s Elliot Perkins misspelled the word “mammoth.”
No one was eliminated in the eighth round, but Zachary Braud of Live Oak Middle and Rylea Landry of Albany Middle were cut in Rounds 9-10, respectively, leaving just four spellers entering Round 11.
Everyone left then advanced to the “Challenge Word” portion of the Bee, and that’s when things opened up for Sprouse. The first three contestants misspelled the words “valedictorian,” “battalion,” and “antarctic,” and all Sprouse needed to do was spell “constituent” to be crowned the champion.
The former Livingston Parish Public Schools Elementary Student of the Year passed with flying colors.
“C-O-N-S-T-I-T-U-E-N-T,” Sprouse spoke into the microphone while fighting back tears. “Constituent.”
After Sprouse won the competition, Cooks, Acosta, and Albany Middle’s Daniel Horton went back on stage to determine the second- and third-place finishers.
Horton was cut in the 13th round, kickstarting a back-and-forth spell-off between Cooks and Acosta in which each correctly spelled their next three words before Acosta stumbled in the 16th round.
For the first time in school history, North Corbin Junior High had the top two finishers in the parish-wide spelling bee, something the school boasted about on social media Wednesday morning.
The top three finishers were given trophies to take back to their schools following the competition, as well as an envelope of gift certificates from local businesses.
The News would like to thank the following businesses for their contributions to the prize packets for the judges and winners: Sombreros, Uno Dos Tacos, La Carreta Mexican Cuisine, El Paso Mexican Grill, Big Mike’s, The Jambalaya Shoppe, and Airborne Extreme Trampoline Park.