Spelling bee won with ‘trifecta’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 11, 2004

As they roared down the stretch, the contestants were neck-and-neck.

Like Secretariat clinging to the inside rail, the leaders began to separate themselves from the pack.

The anticipation inside the Selma-Dallas County Public Library Tuesday morning grew with each passing tick of the clock. The last remaining students reached for the finish, each one showing glimpses of fatigue but determined to hold on until the furious end.

No, the library wasn’t holding a horse race Tuesday, just a spelling bee.

One by one, students from schools across the county dropped from the pack and were eliminated from the competition until only three remained.

Bill Sellier, mediator of the Dallas County Spelling Bee, was beginning to run out of words to call out.

Finally, the wait was over.

John T. Morgan Academy eighth-grader Thomas Huelskoetter stood up and chose his letters carefully after Sellier announced the last word.

The loud applause inside the Vaughan Conference Room of the Library signaled that he had won in a photo finish.

Thomas gave a sigh of relief and a big grin.

Jordan Ferrell, a sixth-grader at Valley Grande Elementary, came in a placed second and Morgan Academy seventh-grader Brook Robertson rounded out third.

It was a big day for all the students who participated in the county-wide Spelling Bee. They had studied hard in preparation for the contest.

A large majority of the 20 or so students in the Spelling Bee managed to last well into the backstretch. The competition was sponsored by the Selma Kiwanis Club, which has hosted the Spelling Bee for the past few years.

Kiwanis Club member Jeff Cothran said Thomas received a $2,000 savings bond for his first-place win.

Jordan received a $1,000 savings bond for her second-place title and Brook took home a $500 bond for winning third-place.

One organizer of the Spelling Bee said she was proud of how well all the students performed, but wished there had been a larger participation.

With this win, Thomas will likely move on to the state Spelling Bee competition in Birmingham as he gears up for the second leg of the spelling triple crown.

Whoever wins this competition will then go on to the national Spelling Bee competition and a chance at history.

Whether he makes it that far or not, Thomas, along with the other Spelling Bee winners are, have already proved they are thoroughbreds of spelling.