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Through the Viewfinder: 8-year-old West student captures spelling bee crown

Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Susie B. West Elementary second grader Tavia Morris spells “bangle” in the first round of the Natchez Adams School District spelling bee Friday. Twelve students from Frazier Elementary, Robert Lewis Magnet School, McLaurin Elementary School, Morgantown Middle School and West participated in this year’s spelling bee at Braden Auditorium.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Susie B. West Elementary second grader Tavia Morris spells “bangle” in the first round of the Natchez Adams School District spelling bee Friday. Twelve students from Frazier Elementary, Robert Lewis Magnet School, McLaurin Elementary School, Morgantown Middle School and West participated in this year’s spelling bee at Braden Auditorium.

NATCHEZ — Seated in a reserved corner of Braden Auditorium, 12 participants in the Natchez-Adams School District spelling bee waited to step on stage Friday afternoon.

“I’m so scared of this,” Jasmine Jackson, a fifth-grader at Frazier Elementary, said. “It’s like Jason, Freddy Krueger and Bloody Mary all wrapped into one.”

Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat —  Talor Morris, 12, takes a photo of his younger sister, Tavia, after she won the spelling bee.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat —
Talor Morris, 12, takes a photo of his younger sister, Tavia, after she won the spelling bee.

After the introductions, procedures and rules were read, the students formed a single line and walked on stage to find the seat number that matched the one hanging around their neck.

After the first three participants were eliminated, Jasmine stepped up to the microphone.

“The word is ‘topical,’” caller Carl Edwards said.

Jasmine took a deep breath and repeated the word before beginning to spell.

“T-O-P-I,” Jasmine started, closing her eyes to try and envision the word. “C-A-L. Topical.”

The judges looked over their books before confirming she was correct.

A small smile spread across Jasmine’s face as she returned to her seat.

With her feet barely reaching the floor, 8-year-old Tavia Morris, a second-grader at West Elementary, hopped down from the No. 13 seat to try and make it past the first round. Just like her chair, the microphone was too tall for Tavia. Tilting her head back and keeping her shoulders straight, Tavia spelled “bangle.”

From behind the judges table, Tavia’s mother, father and older brother watched, hoping this year she would make it past the first round.

“We practiced at home to help her get ready for the school and district spelling bee,” Paula Morris, Tavia’s mother, said. “We had many spelling bees in the kitchen.”

With the announcement Tavia spelled “bangle” correctly, her older brother Talor Morris, 12, gave her two thumbs up.

At the start of the second round, only four participants remained. By the end, only Tavia and Lionyell Stepter remained.

After misspelling “prescription,” Lionyell stepped back to give Tavia room.

“She walks with confidence,” Janice Davis, a teacher at Robert Lewis Magnet School, said as Tavia approached the microphone. “That girl is tough.”

Slowly, Tavia began to spell, pausing between the “C” and the “R.”

“I-P-T-I-O-N. Prescription,” Tavia said.

After the judges declared Tavia’s spelling correct, one word separated her from being named NASD spelling bee winner.

“The word is ‘farthing,’” Edwards said.

For the third time Tavia slowly spelled her word, nervously tugging at the ends of her navy blue sweater. Applause filled the auditorium when the judges announced Tavia was correct.

“Last year, she didn’t make it through the first round,” Tim Morris, Tavia’s father, said. “Regardless of what happened, she’s already a winner to us.”

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