For the next 20 rounds, Lincoln County Middle School eighth-grader Kevin Chen and Stevens Creek Elementary School fifth-grader Charles Li spelled words including “capitulation,” “meistersinger,” “erudite,” “prerogative” and “nachtmusik.”
From the audience, Charles’ mother, Grace Wang, felt her nervousness begin to ease, she said, while her son began to get more apprehensive.
“I was really nervous because I thought I was going to get one wrong and he was going to win,” he said.
In the 41st round, Kevin stumbled on the word “fuselage.”
On his turn, Charles correctly spelled “ameliorate,” then won with “calypso.”
He advances to the national competition in Washington, D.C., to be held May 25-31. It will be televised on ESPN.
Charles finished third last year in the Columbia County spelling bee. He said he studied about 15 minutes a day this year using an online program, but he plans to study a little harder for the national competition.
He said he went to Washington once for about a day and hopes to see more of the sights while he is there.
Academics has always come easy for Charles, who said he typically only studies about 15 minutes for any given test.
He has a gift for memorization, his mother said. He also plays classical piano, and last year was one of two winners in the Symphony Orchestra Augusta Concerto Piano Competition.
Wang said her son can easily memorize 20 pages of music for a performance.
Immediately after his win, Charles grabbed his mother’s phone and began texting friends.
His prizes include a $250 Visa gift card, a Webster’s New International Dictionary, a one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica online, and an all-expenses-paid trip to the national competition.
Contestants in the regional bee represented school districts in Jenkins, Edgefield, Lincoln, McCormick, Taliaferro, Burke, McDuffie and Richmond counties. Others represented Washington-Wilkes Middle School, Leavelle McCampbell Middle School, Aiken Area Home Educators, the CSRA Home Education Association, and Westminster Schools of Augusta.