By the fifth round of words at the Area 2 Spelling Bee, it was clear the competition had become a battle of the boys.
Words such as ''bracketed'' and ''insinuate'' almost cost 10-year-old Ryan Stogner the championship, but runner-up Matthew Nash, 12, also had his difficulties with ''sluice'' and ''soothsayer.''
As Matthew misspelled ''soothsayer,'' Ryan had a leg up when he received the word ''fantastically.'' Spelling it easily, he was then given ''mustiness.''
Both contestants later admitted they'd never heard of the last words they had to spell in the contest.
"I felt nervous," said Ryan, a fifth-grader at Belvedere Elementary School, of his experience in the spelling bee.
The Area 2 champion has come from Paul Knox Middle School the last two years, so it was no surprise that Matthew, a sixth grader, stayed in the bee as long as he did.
It was Matthew's second year representing a school at the area spelling bee.
"I feel pretty good," Matthew said of his second-place finish.
Danielle Altringer, of North Augusta Elementary School, finished in third place at the spelling bee as the last girl standing. After spelling the words ''galactic,'' ''prism'' and ''ultraviolet,'' it was finally ''asparagus'' that stumped her.
While 14 pupils from fifth through eighth grade sat in a row of chairs facing an audience of family and friends in anticipation of hard words to come, parents also had the hard part of watching their child fight for the spelling bee title.
"I think I was more nervous than he was," said Ryan's mother, Nikki Stogner. "I am just really proud of him."