DAVID BROWN: Only one can be the B-E-S-T

  • A happy Hailie Madlock (center) took home the first-place trophy Thursday morning during the 14th annual Cherokee County Middle Schools Spelling Bee at Martins Creek School. Fellow Martins Creek student Alexis Tighe (left) finished second, while Isabelle Gladson of Ranger (right) took third.
    A happy Hailie Madlock (center) took home the first-place trophy Thursday morning during the 14th annual Cherokee County Middle Schools Spelling Bee at Martins Creek School. Fellow Martins Creek student Alexis Tighe (left) finished second, while Isabelle Gladson of Ranger (right) took third.
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    It was in Mrs. Dudash’s fourth-grade class at Melaleuca Elementary School that I first experienced real pressure. It was my first spelling bee, a small ceramic horse was at stake for the winner and in panic my mind was quickly running out of letters with which to spell those infernal words.
    I’ve long since forgotten what word sealed the deal for me that fateful day, but I’ve never forgotten how proud I was to take home that horse after I won the bee. My grandmother painted it up nice and put it in a special place at her house, so every time I saw the horse I was reminded of how good that moment felt.
    Judging from how she was dancing in the hallway outside the Martins Creek School Media Center afterward – at least until she saw this adult coming – Hailie Madlock knows that feeling firsthand. After seven rounds, she was declared the winner of the 14th annual Cherokee County Middle Schools Spelling Bee on Thursday morning.
    Victory was extra sweet for the Martins Creek eighth-grader, too, as Madlock’s
winning word was “chocolate.” She also received a nice trophy and $100 cash prize courtesy of Friends of the Murphy Public Library, which started the contest about the same time the Cherokee Scout’s Newspapers in Education program was formed.
    Fellow Martins Creek student Alexis Tighe finished second, winning a trophy and $50, while Isabelle Gladson of Ranger School took third and $25. The words “rehearse” and “prairie” proved to be their respective downfalls.
    The other seven contestants received ribbons and a dollar coin for winning their school’s spelling bee. In today’s “let’s stay inside” era, it takes a lot for some children to make the time – and have the courage – to participate in such a public event, with all eyes on them.
    “We thank the students for sharing the lost art of spelling,” said Scotty Plappert, a former teacher and librarian who today is vice president of the Friends group. Her enthusiasm for the written word is contagious.
    Martins Creek Principal Paul Wilson, who did his usual commendable job of reading the words without expression, also touched on that theme after words like “access,” “ballot,” “rabbit” and “cleanser” took down other students.
    “Consider our winners are growing up in a time of texting and Twitter, Facebook and spell-check, why worry about entire words?” Wilson said.
    “But where would we be without words? There would be no books to learn from, no way to communicate.”
    Students learn new words by studying the word lists for the spelling bee, which in turn makes good readers. And since good readers are kind of essential to the Scout, we’re always happy to help create more of them anyway we can.
    While the event didn’t have much drama outside of a dramatic pause near the end of the first round, staff did a good job of making the students who went out not feel bad. “Bequeathed” is a tough word even for journalists, and everyone is indeed a winner when they are trying to learn more.
    David Brown is publisher of the Cherokee Scout. You can reach him by phone, 837-5122; fax, 837-5832; email, dbrown@cherokeescout.com; or message him on Twitter @daviddBstroh.