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Gainesville Middle student wins City Schools spelling bee
Winner, runner-up have 14 rounds of 'ping pong'
Leita Williams, right, spells out letters as she competes during the Gainesville City School system Spelling Bee on Wednesday. Williams finished third in the bee. On the left is eventual winner Curt Beccue. - photo by Tom Reed

Gainesville City Schools spelling bee winners

Middle School Spelling Bee
Winner: Curt Beccue (Gainesville Middle School)
Runner-up: David Davenport (Gainesville Middle School)

Elementary School Spelling Bee
Winner: Julie Mai (Centennial)
Runner-up: Maddie Cole (Enota)


Perseverance is a word Curt Beccue knows well.

Not only did he exemplify the word's meaning but it's also the word that he correctly spelled to claim his victory in the Gainesville City Schools Spelling Bee on Wednesday afternoon.

Twenty-five middle school students competed against one another to win the spelling bee and go on to the Georgia Association of Educators District Spelling Bee in Suwanee on Feb. 25.

The winner of that competition will go on to the state spelling bee, and the state winner will continue on to Washington, D.C., for the national spelling bee.

After five rounds, only two Gainesville Middle School students remained, eighth-grader Curt and seventh-grader David Davenport.

The two went back and forth for another 14 rounds.

"It's like a ping-pong game," the announcer and GMS media clerk, Matt McClure, said at one point during the bee.

Shelby Day, GMS media specialist, responded by saying "It's better than a football game."

At several points both of the boys thought they had lost only to get pulled back into the competition again.

"At first when I got out, I was like ‘Aw, at least I got this far' then when she said ‘you're going back in' I was like ‘Oh! That's relieving,'" David said.

The two continued their back and forth even after the final school bell rang and students ran to catch their buses.

Students passing by the media center stopped to peer through the windows and shout encouragements to their friends. By the end of the bee a sizable crowd had gathered outside the media center doors, smiling and cheering.

"It was fun. I didn't expect it to be that long," Curt said after breathing a sigh of relief.

"It was intense, I'll give props to (David). He's a great speller."

Day said this is the first time she's ever seen a situation like this in a spelling bee.

"This is pretty cool because this has never happened. That's pretty exciting," Day told the students who stuck around to watch the end of the bee.

Curt said he didn't exactly prepare for the bee. He said he has just always had a knack for words.

"It's a blessing," Curt said.

David said the experience was nerve-wracking. He said he prayed for easy words and that he would get them right.

"You see everybody get out and you think to yourself that you might be next and then you stay in. ... I just went back in and tried to spell my best and came out second," David said. "I'm not sure how I spelled some of these words."

Wednesday morning the elementary school students competed in their spelling bee.

Maddie Cole, a fifth-grade student from Enota, was the runner-up, and Julie Mai, a fifth-grade student from Centennial, was the winner.

Julie read books and memorized words from the dictionary to prepare for the spelling bee.

"I was scared at first because there are a lot of kids, and I think they were a lot better than me," Julie said.

Three of the last four students in the elementary school spelling bee were from Centennial Arts Academy. Leslie Frierson, assistant principal of Centennial, said she was very proud of all of her school's students.

"I'm so proud of Julie. She's worked so hard and she's such a smart girl. She stayed calm and showed how smart she was. I know her family is very proud of her. We're very proud of her. She's an excellent representative of our school," Frierson said.


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