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North Hall eighth-grader wins county spelling bee
'Prairie,' 'safari' spell victory in contest
Hall County School District Spelling Bee winner William Usrey is greeted by his mother Stephanie Usrey at the conclusion of the bee. - photo by Tom Reed

After a tough war of words, North Hall Middle School eighth-grader William Usrey was named this year’s winner of Tuesday’s systemwide Hall County spelling bee after correctly spelling the words “prairie” and “safari.”

Usrey admitted that although he studied very little before the spelling bee at Blackshear Place Baptist Church in Flowery Branch, he would probably study more before the next competition, February’s District 3 spelling bee in Suwanee.

“I didn’t really study. I studied probably five minutes the night before, but I’ll probably study a lot more for the next one,” Usrey said.

Stephanie Usrey, the winner’s mother, added that her son loves to read and learns to spell many complicated words from the time he spends with his books.

“There’s a lot of words he can’t really pronounce because they’re words he doesn’t know, but he knows how to spell them because he’s always reading,” she said.

Fifth-grader Evan Zimmerman from Riverbend Elementary School was the spelling bee’s runner-up.

Usrey’s mother was quick to praise Zimmerman on his accomplishment.

“I’m proud of him (William), but this guy was great,” she said of Zimmerman. “He’s only in fifth grade, and he got this far? That is so impressive.”

Representatives from participating Hall County elementary and middle schools were challenged to spell words like “beguile,” “sufficiently” and “compendium” on their quest to become Hall County’s two winning delegates for the District 3 spelling bee, which will include 18 systems competing against each other.

Students in Tuesday’s bee were the winners of first-round school spelling bees that occurred in Hall County elementary and middle schools that voluntarily chose to hold a bee.

Winners of the upcoming districtwide spelling bees will go on to a state competition and finally to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Third-place winner and East Hall Middle School sixth-grader Gabrielle “Gabby” Cochran will replace Usrey or Zimmerman in the event one of the finalists is not able to fulfill his duties.

Students were encouraged to pronounce every word before they attempted its spelling, and many took time during their turn to use their hands and fingers as imaginary paper and pencils to ensure their spelling was correct.

Participants also were allowed to request definitions of words, their context in a sentence and language of origin, among other things.

Although he was one of the only students to ask, Usrey said he found one request most helpful when figuring out a word’s correct spelling.

“I think knowing the language of origin helps me spell the words the most,” Usrey said.