Lawhon’s Randi Rankin wins Lee County spelling bee

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Some fourth-graders might be nervous the night before competing in the county spelling bee. Lawhon Elementary’s Randi Rankin wasn’t.
“I thought it was going to be easy,” Randi said when asked to recall what was on her mind the night before the Lee County Spelling Bee on Wednesday.
Randi’s confidence didn’t betray her. The fourth-grader bested six competitors from the Tupelo, Nettleton and Lee County school districts to become the county’s spelling champion.
She will now compete in the Mid-South Spelling Bee in Memphis on March 5. The winner of that competition will advance to the national bee.
The competition is for students in fourth through eighth grades, and it was the younger students who carried the day Wednesday at the Hancock Leadership Center.
Milam sixth-grader Lorraine Rutledge placed second, and Verona Elementary fourth-grader Malachi Fields finished third.
Malachi defeated Nettleton Middle fifth-grader Camey Pittman in a spell-off to break a tie for third.
It took 12 rounds before Randi found herself as the last contestant standing. For a fourth-grader who said she didn’t have trouble spelling any of her words, it was only appropriate that the winning one was “surmountable.”
She said she studied for about an hour or two every day after she was first given the list of words shortly before Christmas break.
Her parents, Randy and Ashley Rankin, said that when other children were outside playing in the snow, Randi was inside practicing her spelling words.
Her 21-year-old brother, William, and her grandmother would call them out to her.
“I really wanted to be in it because I like to spell,” she said.
Randi even made a pre-competition message for herself.
“She wrote on her practice paper, ‘I will win,’” said her dad, Randy Rankin. “We’re really proud of her.”
Although Randi had never competed in a spelling bee until this year, her confidence and demeanor impressed Derwood Tutor, the director of the Hancock Leadership Center and a regular at the county spelling bee.
“Randi Rankin is probably the best speller for her age I’ve seen,” Tutor said. “I’ve attended spelling bees for 17 years. She has a lot of confidence, and she is a great speller, and I think she will do well at the next level.”

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or

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