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CATEGORY: LCN Bobby’s Lee County articlesPEPPER

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By the time she spelled her last word Thursday, Nora Brown felt like a boxer who had been through a few heavy-hitting rounds.

Brown, a Guntown Middle School eighth grader, was worn out after having endured two intense spelling bee competitions within a week each lasting 18 rounds.

She was tired and exhausted. But as Brown held the first-place trophy following the Lee County Spelling Bee, she felt like a champion.

Brown outlasted eight other students to win the county spelling event at the Hancock Leadership Center in Tupelo. She clinched the victory over her final two opponents by correctly spelling “castanets.”

“When I saw there were three people left and three trophies on the table, I got really excited,” she said. “I really didn’t expect to get this far.”

Brown, the daughter of Ken and Kathy Brown of Saltillo, advances to the Mid-South Spelling Bee Feb. 24 in Memphis. The first-place finisher in Memphis will participate in the national spelling bee this spring in Washington, D.C.

Just five days earlier, Brown won the Lee County Schools’ spelling bee at her home school. She admitted she had little practice before that win.

“I really didn’t study that much until the week before the spelling bee, and then I practiced about an hour a day,” she said.

This time, Brown was facing the top spellers from Tupelo and Baldwyn schools as well as the top runners-up from the county schools’ spelling bee.

“It was just as tense,” Brown said. “And I was just as nervous.”

After the fifth round, the field was reduced to four Brown, Jasmine Agnew of Baldwyn Middle School, and Joanna Edeker and Ardarian Gilliam of Verona Junior High School. They began to feel the pressure of getting up to the microphone to recite their words.

“It was tough to get up there,” said Agnew, an eighth grader who two years ago won the county title and then finished third in Memphis. “Every time I got up there, it felt like my stomach was turning backflips.”

No one slipped on a word for six rounds. But in the 12th round, Gilliam was eliminated for missing “poinsettia.”

“It didn’t get tense until I looked over (to the left) and saw two people on this side and no people on this side (the right), and I knew there were three trophies up there,” Agnew said.

Brown, Agnew and Edeker, a seventh grader, matched word for word until the fateful 18th. At that point, Agnew stumbled on “abstention” while Edeker tripped on “repetitious.”

Brown completed the 18th by spelling “metropolitan,” and then sealed the win with “castanets” the 84th word in the competion.

Because Agnew and Edeker went out in the same round, they had a “spelloff” to determine second place. Agnew won it in two rounds.

Wanda Dzikielewski, spelling bee coordinator for the Lee County School District, served as pronouncer for Thursday’s bee.

“At one point I thought, ‘Well, did I bring enough words today?’ … There were more rounds in this year’s than in the past,” she said. “These young people spelled extremely well.

“Spelling bees are exciting,” Dzikielewski added. “It’s a really good academic activity for young people, so I hope more people will become more involved in the future.”

Brown said she doesn’t plan to make any changes in her routine in preparation for the Mid-South Spelling Bee.

“I’ll probably do what we’ve being doing,” she said. “I’ll go over the words and the ones I don’t know, I get somebody to call them out to me. If I don’t know it, I’ll look it up.”

After Brown received congratulations for her win, Agnew in a show of good sportsmanship gave the champ some pointers on what to expect in Memphis.

The first thing Brown should do, according to Agnew, is avoid eye contact with the pronouncer.

“Don’t look at him,” Agnew told Brown. “When you get up on the stage, you have to watch your step. People fall over the steps if they look at him.”

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