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RMS student Ellis wins district bee
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There were several tense moments in the Dawson County Middle School auditorium, as six students from area elementary and middle schools attempted to make spelling history.

Luke Ellis, an eighth grader from Riverview Middle School, was the last one standing.

The districtwide spelling bee, held Jan. 30, pitted winners of the individual school spelling bees against each other to see who the school system would send to the upcoming regional spelling bee.

Dr. Janice Darnell, director of student support with Dawson County Schools, moderated the event. They all seemed very relaxed to me today, she said. Sometimes you can tell theyre very nervous, but I thought they did a very good job.

The first few rounds went by quickly, with Kilough Elementarys Micayla Puffer and Blacks Mill Elementarys Kit Robertson eliminated in the first round. Heidi Willford from Riverview Elementary was eliminated in the second round. That left Hayley Burt from Dawson County Middle School, Alejandra Tolson from Robinson Elementary and Ellis still in the running.

Tolson held on for another round, but eventually was eliminated on the word arithmetic.

Then Ellis and Burt went head-to-head in a nail-biting showdown, as they spelled word after word correctly. There was a moment when Burt misspelled permanent, leaving it up to Ellis. However, he also misspelled the word, bringing Burt back into the running.

Then Ellis misspelled apologize. Burt spelled it correctly, but then misspelled achievement. Spelling bee rules dictate that when there are only two students left in the bee, if a person misspells a word, the other person must spell it correctly, and then spell a second word correctly to win.

After spelling achievement, Ellis went on to clinch the winning title by spelling tobacco. With his victory, Ellis is the third winner of the district spelling bee in a row from Riverview Middle.

Were really proud of Luke, said RMS principal Bill Zadernak. Hes been a player on the basketball program for two years, so hes a scholar and an athlete. Zadernak also congratulated runner-up Burt.

She had him on the rope, he said. She needed an e, and we were down on the count with an e. After finding out from Burt that she is in sixth grade, Zadernak laughed. I think the (winning streak) is over.

Superintendent Keith Porter was impressed by the poise and intelligence of the students. The six contestants were winners before the system bee ever began due to the fact that they had already won their classroom and school bees just to get to this contest, he pointed out. These students are asked to spell the words correctly while standing in a spotlight on a stage with no means to write the word down. To overcome these challenges really gives students confidence in their ability to stand and think clearly in a pressurized situation.

I really admire their efforts and performance.

Both Burt and Ellis were excited over their placement in the bee, after having studied for it. I printed off a list off of a website that Webster provided, and I studied off of it, Burt said. Ellis said thats also how he studied.

Webster refers to the online dictionary of Merriam-Webster. The website is, which is the study website for Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Ellis will go on to compete in the region bee, scheduled for Feb. 23 at Mabry Middle School in Marietta. If he is unable to go, Burt will be the replacement. If he wins the region bee, he will move on to the state bee and then, if he wins that, he will attend the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee, held the last week of May in Washington, D.C.

It was exciting, Ellis said, noting he is looking forward to the regional spelling bee.