The word was clementine and Cannon Graham heaved a sigh of relief. With ease, he spelled out the tropical fruit and secured first place in the annual Lauderdale County Spelling Bee.
"There were a lot of hard words but I didn't really get any," Graham, a seventh-grade student at West Lauderdale Middle School, said. "I thought it would be one of the harder words, like one of the German words at the bottom of the list."
GALLERY: 2019 Lauderdale County Spelling Bee
Photos by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star
Graham's casual attitude to the challenging competition made his family wonder if he'd win, but Graham said he'd inherited a sort of photographic memory from his father.
"For me, it's easy. I can just look over the words and I can just remember them," Graham said.
Words such as "tergiversation," one of the words on the provided spelling list that Graham remembered with no trouble but didn't have to recall during the competition.
The 50-student competition quickly dwindled to five students after the first three rounds. The first round eliminated 18 students and another 15 students fell during the second round.
Ananya Mantri, a fourth-grade student from Northeast Elementary School, nabbed second place after a few short rounds against Southeast Middle School students Sydney Shull, in sixth grade, and Mikayla Miles, in fifth grade. Shull secured the third-place trophy and Miles won fourth place.
Mantri's winning word, "tortilla," actually inspired Graham's lunch choice for his family's special celebration following the Friday competition.
"We're going to San Marcos," Graham said, excitedly.
Graham will compete as the area representative in the state spelling bee on March 13 in Jackson. The state's spelling bee winner will go on to the Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 26 in Washington D.C.
The county bee is sponsored by The Meridian Star and Meridian Community College.'