Berryville 6th-grader wins county spelling bee championship

Thursday, January 21, 2021
Berryville Middle School student Molly Staats, a sixth-grader, won first place in the annual Carroll County Spelling Bee on Thursday at the Berryville Performing Arts Center, correctly spelling the word “plague” to earn the medal and a trip to the 2021 Arkansas State Spelling Bee scheduled for Saturday, March 13, at the Vines Center in Little Rock.
Robert Cox / Carroll County News

Winning back-to-back titles is never easy, no matter the event.

Berryville sixth-grader Gregory Fausett learned that the hard way during the annual Carroll County Spelling Bee on Thursday, Jan. 14, at the Berryville Performing Arts Center.

“I learned my lesson this year,” said Fausett, who found himself a little tongue-tied in the final round before finishing ahead of Amy Wallace in a spell-off for second place.

In the final round, Fausett was given the word “calibrate,” but an early stumble caused him to reverse two letters, a mistake he caught immediately, spelling the word correctly in his second attempt. Unfortunately, it was too late.

“I have to think before speaking,” Fausett said, adding that he definitely knew the word. “I might have forgotten it for a bit.”

In the end, fellow sixth-grader Molly Staats walked away with the medal, topping 21 other students from Berryville and Green Forest to earn a trip to the 2021 Arkansas State Spelling Bee scheduled for Saturday, March 13, at the Vines Center in Little Rock.

Staats won the title by correctly spelling “plague” after both Fausett and Wallace were eliminated. Staats’ younger brother, fourth-grader Cash Staats finished fourth.

“This is our sixth year to have somebody from our school win the Carroll County bee,” said Larissa Allen, who serves as the coordinator for the gifted and talented program at Berryville schools.

Allen explained that the spelling bee is open to students from fourth through eighth grades and that students compete in classroom bees to qualify for the county bee and a chance to compete at the state level.

According to Allen, the county bee used to be much larger, with several school districts competing for the title.

“The Carroll County Spelling Bee used to consist of Berryville, Green Forest, Clear Springs and Eureka and Academy, but everybody slowly dwindled away,” Allen said. “So it’s Green Forest and Berryville. We’re the only two competitors this year.”

In a nod to the COVID-19 pandemic, competitors from both schools were socially distanced and wore masks unless at the microphone, and Green Forest students competed virtually over the internet, with judges split between the two locations. Allen, who served as the pronouncer, read from the stage in Berryville, and the entire bee was live-streamed on social media, thanks to the efforts of Berryville EAST lab teacher Andrew Killingsworth, who described the process of live-streaming a virtual competition as “crazy.”

“Our staff has worked hard to make the spelling bee a fun activity for students, coaches and parents alike,” wrote spelling bee coordinator Vicki Brown, who serves as a library media specialist at Green Forest, in the program for the event. “I know of nothing better than a friendly competition among neighbors, especially when it comes to our kids performing.”

Judges for the event consisted of Brown and Linda Otwell from Green Forest, and Delene McCoy from Berryville.

“Each contestant is truly a winner,” Brown wrote, “just because they took the time to prepare for this competition.”

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