By Monique Harrison

Daily Journal

Thirteen-year-old Nora Brown flashed a smile at her parents, who were in the audience at Saturday's Lee County Schools Spelling Bee at Guntown School.

"One hundred dollars," the Guntown student mouthed three times as she stopped smiling long enough to communicate a message to her parents after correctly spelling "rehearsal" and winning the 90-minute, 18-round face-off against 39 other Lee County sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students.

Brown received a $100 savings bond for her first-place finish, while Verona's Joanna Edeker got a $75 bond for second place. Third-place finisher Ardarian Gilliam, also of Verona, received a $50 award.

Verona - the school with the most students in the top 10 - received a plaque.

The Lee County trio will compete in an informal spelling bee against three representatives from Tupelo Public Schools and three from Baldwyn on Thursday. The winner of that competition will go on to the Mid-South Spelling Bee in Memphis. The first-place finisher in Memphis will participate in the national spelling bee in Washington, D.C., this spring.

It was the word "sufficiently" that finally tripped up Edeker after a 10-minute spell-off against Brown.

"Really, it wasn't that hard," the 13-year-old Edeker said, smiling. "The words in the last rounds weren't as hard as they could have been. I just couldn't remember how to spell it. I don't know what happened ... but it was fun."

Brown had a scare of her own in the final round, when she was asked to spell the word "hue."

"I wasn't too sure what they were talking about so I asked for a definition and thought for a minute," said Brown, who credits her spelling ability to a passion for reading. "Finally, I figured it out, though.

The champion's mother, Kathy Brown, said the event put her on edge.

"I was so nervous, but I tried to look calm because if (Nora) looked at me, I didn't want her to see that I was nervous," the mother said. "I was afraid it would scare her."

Gilliam made it into the top three after actually being eliminated in the thirteenth round.

She misspelled the word "prodigious" and a panel of three judges declared the answer incorrect.

During an intermission, however, judges realized the word had been mispronounced by the event's caller, apparently causing Gilliam to miss the word.

"I thought I was out - didn't know why I'd missed it or what had happened," Gilliam said, third-place trophy in hand. "I didn't know what to do."

Gilliam's father said the incident was handled well.

"I knew what had happened and wanted to talk to someone but didn't know where to go," Ardis Gilliam said. "But they took care of it. I'm very proud of her for doing as well as she did. It was a tough competition and a good experience for her."

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