In a night when seven teams were taken down by words like whittawer, autochthonous and esquamulose, the Godspellers from Grace Episcopal Church won the 26th annual adult Spelling Bee with a simpler final word — umami.
Amy Bussler recognized it as a “cooking word,” walked to the microphone and spelled it quickly to give her team the victory Tuesday night at Hosch Theater on the Brenau University campus to benefit the efforts of the Gainesville-Hall County Alliance for Literacy.
“It was super exciting and I hope I get to do it again next year,” Bussler said.
She and her teammates, attorneys Rob Harris and Jack Park, earned a hard-fought victory over the Lanier Technical College Word Nerds.
The event went eight rounds before the field was narrowed to the final two teams. In the finals, both teams correctly spelled their first six words. After the Grace team correctly spelled their seventh word in the finals, the Lanier team misspelled farraginous on its next turn. Harris then spelled the same word and Bussler followed with umami to claim victory.
Harris was on the team from Grace that won the event three years ago and said his teams have faced Lanier Tech and the team from First United Methodist Church which finished third many times in past spelling bees.
“It’s just nice to be back in the final two or three,” he said. “It always tends to be sort of the same two or three that are at the finals. We’re usually in the final three.”
Park, a first-time participant in the event, gave credit to Harris and Bussler for “pulling me along with them.”
“The Lanier Tech team did an outstanding job, too,” he said.
Sravanti Kantheti, program chair of anatomy and physiology at Lanier, said she and her other teammates on the Lanier team did not know their last word.
“We just went out on a limb and took a shot at it and it was way off,” she said.
The other teams participating in the event were from Brenau, First Baptist Church, First United Methodist Church, the Gainesville Rotary, Hall County Library and The Times.
The fundraiser offered all teams a one-time opportunity to buy their way back into the event when they misspelled a word for a $100 donation. Every team used the buy-back option at some point. The only word that stumped the Grace team all night was stichomythia, which could have eliminated them in the third round, if they had not been able to buy themselves back into the competition.