A ‘Sterling’ performance

By Matt Harrelson

February 5, 2014

Matt Harrelson

HAMLET — Spelling and music collided on Wednesday as Sterling Riddick became the Richmond County Schools 2014 Spelling Bee champion with her correct spelling of the word “guitar.”

Sterling, a Hamlet Middle School student, lasted through 10 rounds Wednesday at inside a banquet hall at Cole Auditorium with 10 others, including two separate championship rounds. Sterling advances to The Charlotte Observer Regional Spelling Bee at ImaginOn’s Wachovia Playhouse at 10 a.m. on Feb. 24 in Charlotte.

Alaina Fields, from West Rockingham Elementary School, took runner-up honors. The field of 11 was cut to two after four rounds, and Alaina and Sterling went through an exhausting six rounds to crown a winner. It was Sterling’s second consecutive year winning the Richmond County Spelling Bee.

Donna Gephart, event coordinator, said Sterling will compete in Charlotte with 30 other contestants for a chance to win an all expenses-paid trip for two to the National Spelling Bee Week in May in Washington D.C. and a chance at winning $30,000.

The competition consisted of 11 students from different schools in Richmond County, both elementary and middle. Each individual school winner was first recognized by Lauren Austin and presented a medal by Nikki Covington, one of the three bee judges.

Superintendent George Norris offered words of encouragement before the competition started.

“Congratulations for just getting here. I’m very proud of you,” said Norris. “I’m glad to have you here, and thanks to the parents for their support.”

Board of Education member Joe Richardson added some reassuring words of his own.

“I’ve been coming to these for many, many years as a teacher, principal and Board of Education member,” said Richardson. “I’m proud of everyone of you.”

Once the competition began, emcee Alison Parsons warmed up the students with a practice round made up of easier words, and it seemed to ease some of the nerves that the students obviously had.

Four students were quickly eliminated in the first round. After four rounds, only two students remained.

Sterling and Alaina twice went to a championship round. The first time was after Alaina misspelled her word, and Sterling had a chance to win. However, Sterling misspelled “currency” and was unable to capitalize on the first opportunity. The second time Alaina spelled her word incorrectly, Sterling won the competition with “guitar” in the 10th round.

Sterling, after winning, was calm and collected. After all, Gephart said, she has bigger goals than county champion.

“This year she’s going to Washington,” said Gephart.