SOUTH FORSYTH — With the myriad accomplishments Forsyth County students receive every year, it may seem improbable there are competitions no one in the district has mastered. Well, cross one of them off.
Akshat Gautam, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at South Forsyth Middle, became the first Forsyth student to win the Georgia Association of Educators State Spelling Bee when he spelled “vaporetta” correctly during the 55th annual competition Friday at Zoo Atlanta.
Gautam, who came in third at the county’s spelling bee in January, will represent Georgia in the Scripps National Spelling Bee Championships in May. The event in Washington, D.C., is televised on ESPN.
Gautam bested 19 peers ages 9-14 through 13 rounds and 112 words, according to Kevin Pearson of the Georgia Association of Educators.
Words that contestants misspelled included “aggrandizing,” “polemology,” “suffumigate” and “metallurgy.”
“I was thrilled to see a Forsyth County kid to be going to the national bee,” said Susan Tallant, District 4 consultant and vice chair of the state bee. “This is big.”
Forsyth is in District 4 of the state bee system, which Tallant said is notoriously tough.
“I’ve had about five [from District 4] go to national, and several were runner-up. Georgia won in 1950 and 1952. The highest we placed [since then] was in 1996, and he came in fourth,” she said.
Gautam will receive an all-expense paid trip to the national spelling bee.
“He’ll be up against about 288 of the best spellers from around the world,” said Tallant, noting participants in the national bee also will represent England, China, Panama, Ghana and more.
Until then, he will be able to study with the new dictionary he won Friday. Other prizes included a trophy, $1,000, an iPad Mini, $100 Amazon gift card, $100 U.S. savings bond, one-year online subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica and a Kindle Fire.
“He’s a quiet guy, but he’s confident when he got up to the microphone,” Tallant said. “He drew the first position to spell, which is a tough one. There’s a lot of shuffling going on, and some kids would get distracted, but he just got up there. His parents were so excited.”