He was one of the smallest, looking up to spell into the microphone. But the red-headed sixth-grader was a bigger threat to his 14 opponents than he appeared.
His name is Daniel Powell, and Saturday he won The Augusta Chronicle's 2001 local qualifying spelling bee.
Daniel will advance to the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington. His prizes for winning include an all-expenses-paid trip, a $500 U.S. Savings Bond and an enormous dictionary.
"Actually, I thought I didn't study enough," Daniel said. "But I read a lot - I love to read."
Daniel is a pupil at Columbia Middle School in Columbia County. He competed twice before taking it all in Saturday's event.
"I really didn't expect to win. I didn't think I could," he said.
But he did know how to focus, and that gave him the advantage he needed.
"I didn't look at the audience at all," he said, referring to the crowd in the Morris Auditorium at the News Building on Broad Street. "I tried not to think about them or I would've gone to pieces."
After 19 rounds it came down to two. His opponent went down on the word "nougat."
Daniel spelled it right. He was only one word away.
He said he heard it and visualized it.
"I pictured it the way it looks in a book," he said. "I remembered seeing it, but I don't know where from."
"Bilge, B-I-L-G-E, bilge," he said, and then clapped his hands to his face as he was declared the victor.
On Saturday afternoon, Daniel rushed home to check out Washington on the Internet. He doesn't have his itinerary planned yet.
"I don't know," he said. "It's all just so exciting."
Second place Saturday went to Richmond County's Lisa Cunningham, who received a $200 U.S. Savings Bond. Third place went to the private school competitor, Christine Motzkus, who received a $100 U.S. Savings Bond.
Reach Lisa M. Lohr at (706) 823-3332
|The winning word ...|
bilge (bilj) n. 1. the bulge of a barrel or cask; 2. the bottom or rounded, lower exterior part of a ship's hull; 3. a) the bottommost interior part of a ship, b) water that seeps or leaks in, collects there and becomes stagnant and dirty
The 74th annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee will challenge 248 spellers May 27 to June 1 in Washington. Contestants must be no older than 15 and in the eighth grade or below.