PORTAL — The 2015 Bulloch County Spelling Bee champion lived up to his winning word: "mellifluous."
It means "having a smooth, rich flow," according to Merriam-Webster's dictionary.
Worlanyo Gato, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Mattie Lively Elementary School, breezed through nearly every one of the words he was given Monday evening at Portal Middle High School.
The only one that caused him to stumble was "ignominious," which he actually did spell correctly on his first try. But the judges asked him to repeat his spelling because they couldn't understand him, and he misspelled it the second time.
But he was already one of the final two spellers at that point. The runner-up, Sloan Aubrey, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Portal Middle School, also misspelled the word, which meant both spellers had a clean slate.
Gato's next word was "whip-poor-will," which he spelled quickly and did a little two-step dance as he walked back to his seat.
Aubrey missed her next word, "quintessential." Gato correctly spelled it, then conquered "mellifluous" to win the county bee.
Gato is the second consecutive Bulloch County Spelling Bee winner from Mattie Lively. Last year's winner was Miles Austin, who was also a 10-year-old fifth-grader.
Gato credited his parents, Worlanyo Eric Gato and Vivian Gato, and his two younger brothers with helping him study the words.
"We studied a lot, pretty much every day," the younger Worlanyo Gato said.
His parents didn't want to take too much credit.
"We do work hard with him, but we can't take all the credit," Vivian Gato said. "We thank God so much because ... a lot of people are smart, but not all of them can remember."
The Gatos are newcomers to Statesboro. They immigrated to the United States from Ghana about 10 years ago and have lived in Statesboro for about one-and-a-half years. They moved here from Davenport, Iowa. Worlanyo Eric Gato is an assistant professor of biochemistry at Georgia Southern University, and Vivian Gato is taking classes at Ogeechee Technical College with plans to enter the nursing field.
The younger Worlanyo's brothers also attend Mattie Lively. Elikem, 8, is in second grade, and Woelinam, 6, is in first grade.
Worlanyo Gato said that when he's not in school or studying spelling words, he likes to play soccer, read and listen to a lot of music — specifically, Christian music.
For winning the Bulloch County bee, Gato gets $100 and a trip to the Georgia Association of Educators District 8 Spelling Bee, scheduled for 10 a.m. Feb. 28 at South Georgia State College in Waycross. Aubrey gets $50 as the runner-up. The local bee is sponsored by the Bulloch County Association of Educators.
Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.