Michael Havasy arrived at the URS Center for the Arts for the Aiken County School District’s Spelling Bee Monday – without any expectation of winning a first-place trophy, an iPad and a $100 gift card to the Apple Store.
Heck, the North Augusta Middle School sixth-grader had no expectation of taking part in the contest at all. Michael showed up as the Group 3 alternate from the Group 3 area in North Augusta. When one of the students didn’t arrive, he stepped it and “I was hoping for that,” Michael said.
His victory was aired live on the Aiken Standard’s ASTV 95 on Atlantic Broadband. Repeats will appear over the coming weeks and also will be shown on aikenstandard.com.
Michael edged out runner-up Kaylee Westbrook, a fifth-grader from East Aiken School of the Arts. Kaylee had her own contingent at the event – her family, Principal Lisa Fallaw and other educators and staffers. All of them enthusiastically hugged her afterward, noting she’ll have another three years to compete in the contest.
And how did Kaylee react to settling for second place?
“Oh dadgummit,” she said and burst into giggles. She missed the word “disparage,” throwing in an extra letter.
“I would have done that too,” Michael said graciously.
He had to spell two other words correctly to win the Bee. As it turned out, the selected words amusingly proved quite appropriate for the situation – “anxiety” and “predicament.”
But Michael handled the words comfortably, as “I knew how to spell them.”
As the county winner, he’ll move on to the regional Spelling Bee in Augusta, sponsored by the Augusta Chronicle. Michael got lots of hugs from his mom, Carol Havasy.
“I didn’t come expecting this,” she said. “It’s just wonderful.”
The county Spelling Bee is sponsored annually by URS and Savannah River Remediation. Kaylee also won the $100 gift card to the Apple Store. All 12 competing students also received a $100 gift card to Books-A-Million – handed out by Dean Campbell, public affairs director at SRR.
Dr. Beth Everitt, the Aiken County School District superintendent, presented certificates to the children. Melissa Hanna, the Aiken Standard’s executive editor, gave Michael and Kaylee their trophies.
“It’s a fun night,” Everitt said before the competition began. “There’s a lot of time in (the students’) going over the lists. To the school staffs, thank you for continuing this tradition. It’s a wonderful place to showcase smart students.”
URS and SRR appreciate the opportunity to help sponsor the event, Campbell said. SRR provides cleanup efforts at the Savannah River Site, and “We need smart folks to grow up and work for us.”
Hanna said the Bee promotes the value of spelling and grammar.
“I didn’t fully understand how important they are until I got into journalism,” she said.
The other 10 competitors were as follows:
• Group 1 – Julian Salas and Victoria Hill, both from Aiken Elementary School.
• Group 2 – Amy Herring, North Augusta Elementary School.
• Group 3 – Colton Shealy, Midland Valley Prep; Megan Schar, Gloverville Elementary School.
• Group 4 – Landon Thornton, Aiken Middle School; Niyah Swinger, North Aiken Elementary School.
• Group 5 – Tyriq Carey and Christopher Holley, both from Greendale Elementary School.
• Group 6 – Jada Johnson, Millbrook Elementary School.
The Spelling Bee coordinator, Charlie Tyler, also served as the word pronouncer. He was surprised that so many 5th-graders qualified for the county finals – finishing ahead of middle-schoolers through 8th-grade.
The words are determined by the E.W. Scripps Company. Tyler again didn’t expect to see such challenging words so quickly.
“There’s usually an increase in difficulty as we get to later rounds,” he said. “These seemed difficult from the get-go. It’s always interesting to see the selection of words.”
STAFF PHOTO BY ROB NOVIT After finishing as the runner-up at the Aiken County School District’s Spelling Bee Monday, Kaylee Westbrook, a fifth-grader at East Aiken School of the Arts, is joined by her school fan club, from left, Principal Lisa Fallow, office staffers Lisa Francis and Brenda Callahan, and Kaylee’s teachers, Lisa Oliver and Missy Hughes.×