After the competition dwindled from 10 to two, a confident Coleman Numbers took the microphone and correctly spelled “caboose,” giving him the first-place trophy in the annual Johnson City Schools Spelling Bee.
It was Numbers’ fourth time competing in the bee, and his first win.
“It’s exciting, I guess. I was pretty nervous. I’m glad it paid off,” Numbers said of his victory.
Ten students competed in the systemwide spelling bee Wednesday at Liberty Bell’s Little Theater. Other contestants included Cherokee Elementary fourth-grader Tyesha Thomas, Fairmont Elementary fourth-grader Aspen Matosky, Indian Trail Intermediate fifth-grader Kayla Sagona, Mountain View Elementary fourth-grader Matthew Porter, North Side Elementary third-grader Marelyn Damian-Castro, South Side Elementary fourth-grader Kaelen Wilcox, Towne Acres fourth-grader Thomas Messimer, Lake Ridge Elementary fourth-grader Silas Wang and Woodland Elementary fourth-grader Austin Rich.
The spelling bee started without a hitch as students blew through the first few rounds. Later rounds saw students encounter more difficult words, such as “stoic,” “adios,” and “orator.”
Numbers, Wang and Rich were in the final three and competed through eight rounds — featuring words, such as “refugee,” “plateau,” “artichoke,” “tantalize,” and “bratwurst” — until it came down to Numbers and Wang.
The two students competed through two rounds before Numbers was named the winner.
“Gosh, I hope this doesn’t go on all night,” Numbers said when asked what was going through his mind during the last few rounds.
Although memorizing the spelling of each word on the bee’s list might seem like the obvious way to come out on top, Numbers said it really comes down to learning the root of each word, which is why he asked for a definition and language of origin for each word given to him.
“I don’t really think it’s about the words. I think it’s about knowing the basics of words, I guess,” he said.
Numbers’ mother, Lisa, said her son didn’t ask for too much help when studying for Wednesday’s spelling bee. He did most of the work on his own.
“He’s pretty self-motivated. He prints out the lists and kind of goes over them himself,” she said.
All 10 students who competed Wednesday were the winners of school-level bees.
The spelling bee was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Johnson City in order to help students improve their spelling, vocabulary and knowledge of the English language.
The Liberty Bell Parent-Teacher Association is gathering funds to send Numbers to the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee in Knoxville later this year.