Alachua County students felt the sting of competition Wednesday while participating in the 40th annual Alachua County Spelling Bee.
Keilah Kitching, 13, was crowned the winner in the 10th round with the word commemorate.
“I feel content with how I did during the spelling bee,” Kitching, an eighth-grader at Howard W. Bishop Middle School, said after winning Wednesday’s competition. “I was very grateful but also surprised that I won. The hardest word that I spelled today was probably diatribe.”
Samuel Disabb of Westwood Middle School took second place.
The 41 students who competed represented 38 local elementary and middle schools.
Kitching will represent Alachua County in the Florida Times-Union Regional Spelling Bee at the Jacksonville Main Public Library on Feb. 27 . The winner of that spelling bee will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. in May.
Patrick Gallagher, an English teacher at Buchholz High School, said his favorite part of the competition was watching each student take a breath, relax and smile before spelling her or his word.
“My goal was to take the edge off,” said Gallagher, who served as the pronouncer for the competition.
Keilah’s mother, Kathleen, said her daughter has read a lot of books from a very young age. She said she is proud of how her daughter spelled such large words.
“She uses large words in daily conversations,” Kathleen Kitching said. “She surprises me when she uses them in everyday speech, and I have to pretend that I know what they mean.”