By TOM WOERNER
Of The Record Staff
It is said that second chances are rare in life, but that is exactly what a Highland Middle School student got Thursday when she took home the title in the Harnett County Spelling Bee for the second year in a row.
Helena Thompson out battled Buies Creek Elementary’s Francis Etarock for the win.
Helena spelled the words perennial and rhetoric correct in the final round to take home the title. Francis stumbled on the word nugget which awarded Helena the win.
Last year, Helena won after what is considered the longest spelling bee in the history of the event. She then proceeded to the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., where she finished 18th out of all the spellers in the nation. She now prepares to travel north to the nation’s capital again in an effort to win a national title.
She was excited as she gathered with her parents outside Turner Auditorium on the campus of Campbell University following Thursday’s win.
“I am just glad I was able to win it my last year and that I went out with a bang,” Helena said.
Helena is in the eighth grade and spellers cannot compete past that.
She feels good about her chances.
“I hope I can do better than I did last year,” she said.
Helena’s teacher, Morgan Cook, took little credit for her student.
“I am beyond being amazed at what she has done,” Ms. Cook said. “She challenges me every day, and I am proud of her.”
The second runner-up in the bee this year was Lucas Bottorff from Anderson Creek Club Charter School, and third runner-up was Campbell Rouse from LaFayettte Elementary School.
As usual, many adults in the room were left scratching their heads as champion spellers from all corners of the county took to the microphone. The first word of the day to eliminate a speller was bagel. Others that eliminated spellers included fiends, forlorn and popularity. Some of the words spelled correctly included loam, crescendo, sukiyaki, periphery and metaphor, among others.
Each school in the county, along with the Anderson Creek Charter School, was represented at the bee. Other individual winners were Andrew Kuykendall from Angier Elementary, Chloe Radnoczi from Benhaven Elementary, Dimitris Brown from Boone Trail Elementary, Emma Watson from Coats Elementary, Julianna Dinh from Coats-Erwin Middle, T’zipporah Sanchez, from Dunn Middle, Mattison Gaines from Erwin Elementary, Obe Ude from Harnett Central Middle, TyAna Morrison from Highland Elementary, Riley Thomas from Johnsonville Elementary, Mya Morrison from Lillington-Shawtown Elementary, Loralai Enos from Overhills Elementary, Justin Davis from Overhills Middle, James Jauss from South Harnett Elementary, Aloah Woodrow from Wayne Avenue Elementary and Kaleb Thornton from Western Harnett Middle.