Skylar Kernaghan enjoys English and learning words, and those interests resulted in a victory at the Aiken County annual Spelling Bee on Monday.

The Leavelle McCampbell Middle School seventh-grader edged out Michael Havasy, a North Augusta Middle School seventh-grader. Michael won the 2013 competition last year. Elizabeth Diaz, a Byrd Elementary School fifth-grader, took third place.

A total of 12 students participated in the event at the URS Center for the Performing Arts – all of them finishing first or second in area semi-finals.

The event was sponsored by the Aiken County School District, the Aiken Standard and URS/Savannah River Remediation, also known as SRR.

The newspaper awarded trophies to the top two finishers and streamed the Spelling Bee.

SRR presented each contestant with a $100 gift certificate to Books-A-Million and additional awards for the finalists. Michael won another $100 gift certificate to purchase Apple products, while Skylar received an iPad.

Both said they worked hard on remembering as many words as they could from the long list of words provided the Scripps, the company that sponsors the national finals.

Skylar will move on next month to a regional spelling bee in Augusta. The winner of that tournament will qualify for the nationals in Washington, D.C.

Some of the words in the initial rounds were unusual and challenging.

“Gustatory” refers to the sense of taste, while “regnel” – according to – indicates how a monarch reaches that role through accession.

The other contestants were Nicholas Lintner, Byrd Elementary; Makena Griffis, Hammond Hill Elementary School; Robin Jordan and Ashlynn Stringfield, Clearwater Elementary School; Zachary Chaney, Aiken Middle School; Gracie Holsenback, Ridge Spring-Monetta Elementary-Middle School; Iyceiss Drayton, Jackson Middle School; David Crutchfield, New Ellenton Middle School; Elizabeth Diaz, Kennedy Middle School; and Kayla Gallop, Busbee-Corbett Elementary-Middle School.

The judges were Tomiko Smalls, the School District's human resources director; Sharon Kahl, a retired professional development facilitator for the School District; and Jeff Wallace, a retired Aiken Standard editor.

Dr. Beth Everitt, the Aiken County School District superintendent, congratulated all the students, as did SRR's Dean Campbell and Aiken Standard Executive Editor Melissa Hanna. The event coordinator and pronouncer was Charlie Tyler, a staffer with the School District's Office of Federal Programs.

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter.

He has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.

Editor's note: This version of this story has been updated to correct the name of Elizabeth Diaz, a Byrd Elementary School fifth-grader, who took third place in the spelling bee.