Following a marathon, 28-round final battle, Eric Lim correctly spelled “fraulein” and “mukhtar” to earn the title of Bulloch County Spelling Bee champion for the second consecutive year.
A sixth-grade student at Southeast Bulloch Middle School, Lim was one of 13 participating contestants from Bulloch County’s public elementary and middle schools and Statesboro STEAM, the public charter school.
The 11-year-old son of Sungkyun Lim and Jee Yoon Byun earned the title when Elikem Gato, a fourth-grade student at Brooklet Elementary School and son of Eric and Vivian Gato, misspelled “rendezvous.” Lim received a trophy and a $100 check from the Bulloch County chapter of the Georgia Association of Educators, and first runner-up Gato received a trophy and $50.
All participants in the bee held at Statesboro High School received medals for being their school-level winners.
The 2017 guest pronouncer was America Minc, who is the director of recreational facilities and fitness at Georgia Southern University. Dr. Glayvera Richmond, Marsha Twiggs, Leah Crooke and Dr. Carolyn Smith served as judges.
Lim now advances to the District 8 Spelling Bee at Savannah State University on Feb. 25. The District 8 winner will advance to the state spelling bee and then possibly on to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. As runner-up, Gato will compete if Lim is unable to participate.
Gato had a special spelling tutor: older brother Worlanyo Gato. Worlanyo is a seventh-grader at Southeast Bulloch Middle and was the Bulloch County Spelling Bee champion two years ago and the runner-up last year. The Gato brothers practice calling out words to each other in the evenings and in their free time to prepare for the competitions.
“And they read quite a bit,” their father said.
Lim reads extensively, too, he said, and studies spelling lists he finds online.
“Words I don’t know the definition of, I look them up,” he said. “Word origins I know that I can’t spell well, like German, I take my time studying them.”
All other competitors were eliminated after six rounds, and Lim and Gato began spelling alternately in Round 7. They battled word for word until Round 35 — 28 rounds of words — when Gato finally missed a word and Lim seized the opportunity to win.
In addition to Lim and Gato, the following school-level winners also participated: Xavier Deckard, Julia P. Bryant Elementary; Valerie Rodriguez, Langston Chapel Elementary; Na'Quoyah Crawford, Langston Chapel Middle; Juliette Brannen, Mattie Lively Elementary; Reya Johnson, Mill Creek Elementary; Michael Hall, Nevils Elementary; Briar Lee, Portal Elementary; Shaneisha Coleman, Portal Middle; Victor Lee, Sallie Zetterower Elementary; Abigail Cave, Statesboro STEAM; and Ruby Devoe, Stilson Elementary. Chase Page of William James Middle was a school-level winner but did not participate in the county-level bee.
The Bulloch County Spelling Bee is sponsored annually by the Bulloch County chapter of the Georgia Association of Educators.