After an epic duel and spellmaster Jessica Jackson running out of words, the Lions Club Spelling Bee Competition at Red Bay Church of God ended in a tie on Thursday.
The spelling bee tested the mettle of secondary school students from throughout the Cayman Islands.
John Gray High School’s Jelani Hanson, 11, and Layman E. Scott Snr. High School’s Christon Asa Ferguson, 11, emerged as co-champions in the spelling contest after correctly spelling the word “glossitis,” which means an inflammation of the tongue.
Both boys received trophies and brand new Intuos drawing tablets.
St. Ignatius Catholic School’s Christopher Lorde, Layman E. Scott Snr. High School’s Sahadeo Ramsaroop Sohan and John Gray High School’s Kaciann Wilson all tied for third place.
“The competition was very competitive, and very few kids missed a word,” said Wingrove Hunte, a judge in the competition.
“They went up to round 4 and it was a very stiff competition between the tie-breakers. There was also a significant number of students that went into round three,” he said.
“We had about 12 words left to keep the two boys spelling and we ran out of words,” added Gloria Bell, also a judge in the competition.
Ms. Bell started the spelling bee competition rolling about 20 years ago when she asked RBC Royal Bank to sponsor the competition, with Lions coming on board in later years.
The Department of Education’s senior customer service agent Nickie Samuels was just as excited about the win.
“These competitions just excite us every year. Today it was really a battle to the finish, we ran out words for the kids. They are really keeping it up … starting it young and just keeping it going. It was really good,” Ms. Samuels said.
Joint-winner Jelani said he enjoyed entering the contest, knowing that each year there are so many new people to meet, so many words to discover, and his vocabulary gets stronger with each spelling bee contest he attends.
“The prizes are amazing and I just like learning new words,” he said.
Christon said he felt good winning but in his opinion, it really was not for the prizes, it was just a good learning experience for him.
“I thought I messed up when I had to spell ‘bimillenary’ (which means a period of 2,000 years). I thought it only had one ‘l’ in it,” he said.
Jelani said he found the word “staphylococci” (meaning a genus of gram-positive bacteria) a bit difficult. “It’s very long and the placement of the letters is kind of hard to remember.”
To prepare for the contest, Jelani said he studied and was not too hard on himself. Easy words first and when it was crunch time he practiced hard on the words he was getting incorrect. He spent roughly two to three hours each day learning words, he said.
Christon started studying three to four months ago, with coaching from his Year 6 teacher and his dad.
The two boys were also first place winners in previous primary competitions. Jelani won the primary competition in 2015 while at George Town Primary and Christon was last year’s primary school winner, noted the Education Department’s Ms. Samuels.
Yvette McField, chairman of the Lions Club Spelling Bee Competition, said, “This is our 34th year and the turnout was amazing, it’s good to see the boys stepped up and took their spots, so we are happy to have a well-rounded event this year and we are looking forward to next year.”