Worlanyo Gato, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Southeast Bulloch Middle School, won the 2018 Bulloch County Spelling Bee held Monday evening at Statesboro High School. Gato grabbed the title after 10 rounds by correctly spelling the words "loam" and "newton" after his remaining challenger, Brianna Davis of Mattie Lively Elementary School, incorrectly spelled "haversack." Gato is the son of Worlanyo Eric and Vivian Gato of Statesboro. Davis is the 11-year-old daughter of Vanity and Bryan Hendrix of Statesboro.
This is the second championship for Gato, who first won the local title at age 10, in 2015, when he was in fifth grade at MLES. His win Monday also made SEBMS home to the bee champion for the second year in a row. Worlanyo's brother Elkem of Brooklet Elementary School was runner-up to the 2017 champion, Eric Lim of SEBMS.
The Bulloch County Association of Educators hosts and sponsors the Bulloch County Spelling Bee each year. Thirteen elementary and middle school students from Bulloch County Schools and the Statesboro STEAM Academy competed this year.
Gato will advance to the Georgia Association of Educators' District 8 Spelling Bee on Feb. 24, at Jane Macon Middle School in Brunswick, Georgia, where he will compete against 33 county champions from 31 southeast Georgia counties. The winner of the District 8 Spelling Bee will advance to the GAE State Spelling Bee on March 16, at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains, Georgia, and possibly the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in June.
Gato and Davis received trophies and $100 and $50 cash prizes, respectively. Each of the other school-level winners received medals. School-level winners who competed this year were Issy Ackerly, Brooklet Elementary; Xavier Deckard, Julia P. Bryant Elementary; Tazmerria Wilson, Langston Chapel Middle; Cammy Parker, Mill Creek Elementary; Trevor Cannon, Nevils Elementary; Sadie Thomas, Portal Elementary; Briar Lee, Portal Middle High; Serena Lee, Sallie Zetterower Elementary; Ethan Cave, Statesboro STEAM Academy; Avery Register, Stilson Elementary; and Evy Shen, William James Middle. Disaya Hagan was the school-level winner for Langston Chapel Elementary, but she nor her alternate, Lantice Torrence, were able to compete in the county contest.
Judges for this year's bee were Barbara Brown and Melissa Anderson of Bulloch County Schools and Adrienne DeFoe-Dobbs of Statesboro STEAM Academy. The guest pronouncer was Reagan Daly of Georgia Southern University. This year's GAE Bulloch County Spelling Bee coordinator was Chianti L. Culver of Georgia Southern.