Rim Country Middle School eighth-grader Ernesto Tobias killed the competition at Payson Unified School District’s spelling bee Thursday, beating 47 other spellers when he correctly spelled “disobey.”
Fifteen spellers flunked out during the first round, but the second round really separated the honey from the comb with 17 students shooed out. Words like velocity and condemn proved too difficult for the grim-faced youngsters.
This year, a new rule allowed students to write their word on a piece of paper if they needed.
Students mostly invoked that rule during that arduous second round. It seemed a last ditch effort, however, since five out of seven students spelled the words wrong even with the pencil and paper.
Luckily, Tobias is perhaps a spelling natural. He reluctantly agreed to an interview after the bee, which he said he didn’t even know about until Wednesday. He studied Thursday morning.
“I felt really unprepared,” Tobias said in his calm way.
Overactive nerves settled down after the first round, and Tobias clinched round five, with just three students left, when he spelled “calcium.” He then had to spell “disobey” for the grand prize of a Scrabble game, an oversized bee, and a medallion.
Perhaps it was experience that steadied Tobias through the fierce competition. He won third place at last year’s countywide bee.
This year’s countywide bee will take place on Feb. 5 in Globe. Gila County’s winner will compete at the statewide bee on March 27.
The top six finalists in Payson will compete in Globe; the seventh will travel there as an alternate.
Tied for second place were RCMS students Sean Self and Briseida Perez.
Tied for third were Julia Randall Elementary student Skylar Vela, RCMS student Shea Shields, and Payson Elementary student Colin Nossek.
Frontier Elementary student Micah Miracle placed as alternate.