The following students qualified to participate in the Forsyth County school system’s spelling bee:
* Big Creek — Abhinav Iyer, fifth grade
* Brookwood — Maddy Morales, fifth
* Chattahoochee — David Gonzalez, fifth
* Chestatee — Haley Bobersky, fifth
* Coal Mountain — Chayton Thompson, fifth
* Cumming — Calvin Norris , fifth
* Daves Creek — Pranati Madala, fifth
* Haw Creek — Mrunmayee Lele, fifth
* Johns Creek — Rishi Gullapalli, fifth
* Kelly Mill — Arianna Cox, fifth
* Mashburn — Camryn Coen, fourth
* Matt — Jacob Hiltzheimer, fifth
* Midway — Shrey Shah, fourth
* Sawnee — Amihan Spence, fifth
* Settles Bridge — Soumya Patel, fifth
* Sharon — Aadi Karthik, fourth
* Shiloh Point — Arkesh Ray, fifth
* Silver City — Jannai Ahadzi, fifth
* Vickery Creek — Tommy LeMoyne, fourth
* Whitlow — Armaan Anchala, fifth
* Lakeside — Lauren Ward, eighth grade
* Liberty — Allen Datu seventh
* Little Mill — Julia Vallier, sixth
* North — Hunter Stewart, sixth
* Otwell — Caya Bennett, eighth
* Piney Grove — Anish Bikmal, seventh
* Riverwatch — Julia Chang, sixth
* South — Tyler Xu, sixth
* Vickery Creek — Hannah Love, eighth
Source: Forsyth County Schools
Eyes glanced up at the ceiling, hands were shoved in pockets and fingers traced letters on arms as students struggled through difficult words at the Forsyth County school system’s spelling bee Saturday.
The final word correctly spelled — vindictive — earned Anish Bikmal the first-place trophy.
Bikmal, a seventh-grader at Piney Grove Middle, will compete in the district bee in February, along with first runner-up Caya Bennett, an Otwell Middle eighth-grader, and Haley Bobersky, a fifth-grader at Chestatee Elementary.
In case one of them is unable to attend, the alternate is fourth-grader Aadi Karthik of Sharon Elementary.
The countywide bee started with 28 students representing all but one of the elementary and middle schools in the county.
By the sixth round, the competition had been narrowed to two spellers.
Bikmal was the first to misstep, incorrectly spelling “rhapsody.” Bennett then got it correct, but missed “territorial,” which allowed Bikmal to step up and spell the final two words.
Both finalists said “rhapsody” was the hardest word they’d had to spell during the bee.
Bikmal said he studied the list that he was given at school and had his parents or older brother quiz him on the words.
He didn’t expect to take home the trophy, but this was his second time competing. Bikmal also participated in the countywide bee when he was in fifth grade, but said he didn’t make it through the first round then.
Bennett said she studied alone with a copy of the Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, the same as the one on the judge’s table.
Her strategy for spelling on stage was a quiet focus.
“I just close my eyes and visualize the word in my head,” Bennett said.
She expects to do a lot more studying before the district round in February. The winners there move onto the state round to compete for a spot in the national bee in Washington D.C.
Judi Jenkins, bee organizer for the school system, said she was impressed once again with the spelling skills of the students this year.
“We’re proud of you,” Jenkins said, as she handed out trophies. “Congratulations.”