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Jackson Tomlin thought for a moment and then calmly spelled the word: "h-o-w-i-t-z-e-r."
Bedford County, meet your new spelling bee champion.
Jackson of Big Island Elementary School outlasted 16 other contestants last Wednesday to claim the county championship. As a result he advances to the regional contest next month in Roanoke.
At first, Jackson said, his final word to win the spelling bee didn't register. "Then it just came to me," he said.
Jackson had help from his parents, Mardi and Mike Tomlin of Big Island, in preparing for last week's contest. More studying is likely in his future as he prepares for the regional.
For Jessica Blankenship, a student at Forest Middle School, she stumbled on the word "furlough" in the 13th round. After failing to spell that word, Jackson correctly spelled "machismo." That left him as the lone contestant for the 14th round. Spell "howitzer" correctly and he was champion. Fail to do so and Jessica was back in.
Jackson came through.
"I always get that word wrong," Jessica said of misspelling "furlough."
As a result of finishing second, Jessica will serve as the alternate for Bedford County at the regional event. Should Jackson not be able to compete, she'll represent the county.
"It means a lot," Jessica, the daughter of Cheryl and John Blankenship, said about being the county runner-up.
Though Jackson and Jessica took the top two spots at the spelling bee, in round 10 it looked like both would be eliminated. In that round Jessica misspelled "samurai" and Jackson missed "consensus," while Moira Howard of Staunton River Middle School correctly spelled "juggernaut."
All Moria had to do was spell "toboggan" right in the 11th round and she would have been champion. But she missed that word, allowing both Jackson and Jessica back in the competition for the 12th round. Moira was then eliminated on the word "streusel" while Jessica correctly spelled "boutique" and Jackson correctly spelled "plausible." That set up the fateful 13th round between those two.
The Bedford County Spelling Bee was held at the auditorium of Liberty High School. The contest began with 17 contestants but by the end of the second round only nine remained. By the end of the sixth round it was down to just Moira, Jessica and Jackson. Those three each spelled their words correctly in the next three rounds, leading up to the events of the 10th round.
School spelling bee winners and the alternates included:
Bedford Middle School ? Nathan O'Brian, champion; Taylor Stanley, alternate.
Forest Middle School ? Jessica Blankenship, champion; Holly Drabick, alternate.
Staunton River Middle School ? Moira Howard, champion; Katherine Gibson-Cromer, alternate.
Bedford Elementary School ? Megan Bisser, champion; Anna Sellers, alternate.
Big Island Elementary School ? Jackson Tomlin, champion; Cameron James Weeks, alternate.
Body Camp Elementary School ? Jacob Chatman, champion; Kyra Klemm-Smith, alternate.
Boonsboro Elementary School ? Jacob Morgan, champion; Kyndal Arrington, alternate.
Forest Elementary School ? Jimmi Nelson-Reid, champion; Thomas Brown, alternate.
Goodview Elementary School ? Alec Daniel, champion; Trevor Kingery, alternate.
Huddleston Elementary School ? Christopher Pringle, champion; Sullivan Smither, alternate.
Moneta Elementary School ? Zachary Bowyer, champion; Branson Aznavorian, alternate.
Montvale Elementary School ? Lee Overstreet, champion; Tiffany Franklin, alternate.
New London Academy ? Ashton Haag, champion; Rachel Nagley, alternate.
Otter River Elementary School ? Jacob Williams, champion; Ernest Dylan Wagner, alternate.
Stewartsville Elementary School ? Wendy Pendleton, champion; Tyler Ergenbright, alternate.
Thaxton Elementary School ? Michelle Cox, champion; Tyler Crunkleton, alternate.
Thomas Jefferson Elementary School ? Jake Richardson, champion; Megan Marshall, alternate.