By Amanda Moss
CHARLOTTE — Sterling Riddick walked away from the 60th annual Charlotte Observer Regional Spelling Bee with her head held high, knowing that she gave it her best.
The 13-year old Hamlet Middle School eighth-grader represented Richmond County on Monday at ImagineOn Wachovia Playhouse in Charlotte. Sterling won the Richmond County Bee on Feb. 5 — her third county win in as many tries.
The regional competition had 26 contestants that represented 13 counties from North and South Carolina. A total of 360 schools were part of the whole competition. The event lasted 34 rounds. Mary Polking, an eighth grade student at Holy Trinity Middle School, won with the word “plexure.” Polking earned an all-expenses-paid trip, courtesy of The Charlotte Observer, to compete in May at the 88th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.
The first three rounds Sterling flew threw by spelling correctly “hearth,” “threshold” and “paddock.” It was in the fourth round when Sterling was to spell “palette” that she slipped up.
“I am disappointed because I did know the word, but I didn’t trust my gut instinct,” Sterling said.
Sterling was the 13th contestant to be eliminated. She made it halfway through the competition, which was an accomplishment.
“I made it further than I did last time,” Sterling said. “I am happy about that. That was my goal and something I wanted to do this time around.”
This is the third time that Sterling has walked on the stage in Charlotte to represent the county. Each time before her nerves got the best of her.
Last year, Sterling was eliminated in the third round with the word “yield.” She did have a moment of panic thinking that she might get that word again this year.
Sterling confessed that she does get nervous standing on stage. And who wouldn’t? It’s not an easy thing to stand up on stage with lights, cameras and an audience watching your every move.
“Anything can happen really,” Sterling said. “You can be given an easy word or you can be given a difficult one. You just have to be as prepared as you can be.”
And Sterling put forth the effort to be prepared, said her mother, Deb Roberts.
“I’m so proud of her,” Roberts said. “She really has worked hard to get to this point. We’ve been spelling left and right for this competition.”
Sterling said that her family and parents, Deb and Larry Roberts, have been extremely helpful and supportive throughout this entire experience.
While Sterling was disappointed to not advance to the national level, she knows that she accomplished something that others have not.
“I am proud of myself for getting this far, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to be here,” Sterling said.