Harlan County has two new spelling champions.
Brooklyn Whitehead, a third grader at Green Hills Elementary School, and Cade Barnes, a seventh grader at Harlan County Christian School, each won their respective divisions of the Harlan County Spelling Bee on Monday.
Barnes, who advances to the state spelling bee, won his title in the 11th round. His lone remaining competitor, Jacob Fuson, an eighth grader at Evarts Elementary, missed the spelling of siesta by starting off with the letter “c.”
Barnes correctly spelled that word and then captured the title by spelling terrific.
Barnes said spelling “Is not one of my favorite subjects, but it is one of my easiest.”
He admitted to not spending a lot of time working on spelling, but won his school spelling bee to advance to the county competition.
Now, after winning the school and county championships, he is headed to the state competition in Louisville on March 15.
“I think that really God gave me a privilege to (win) and I want to thank him for that,” said Barnes, the son of Paul and Theresa Barnes, of Loyall. “He helped me study all the words and learn them all.”
Students tying for third place in that division were Matthew Simpson, an eighth grader at James A. Cawood Elementary School, and Jaden Hall, an eighth grader at Rosspoint Elementary School.
The fourth- through eighth-grade division concluded much faster than the primary division, which continued for 24 rounds.
In the primary division, Whitehead and fellow Green Hills student Alisha Middleton, a second grader, went head to head for multiple rounds, with both being returned to the stage on several occasions after the other failed to spell the next word correctly.
In the spelling bee rules, if one of the last contestants spells a word incorrectly, the remaining student must correctly spell that word which was misspelled and then spell an additional word correctly.
Green Hills Principal Jonathan Perkins said having both students from his school battling it out for the primary championship made it a bit easier on him, knowing that no matter which one won she would be from his school.
“It was pretty intense,” he said.
Whitehead is the daughter of Walden and Natasia Whithead, of Bledsoe.
Four students tied for third place, all going out in the same round. They were Madison Combs, a third grader at Black Mountain Elementary School; Briley Edwards, a second grader at Evarts Elementary School; Braylee McKenzie, a third grader at Rosspoint Elementary School; and Jayden Simpson, a third grader at Wallins Elementary School.
Students from the Harlan County School District, Harlan Independent School District and Harlan County Christian School compete in the fourth through eighth grade division.
The primary division is limited to students from the Harlan County School District. In the primary division, the top two spellers from each school advance to the county championship.
All students competing receive medallions. The first place winner of the fourth through eighth grade division receives $100, while second place receives $50 and third $25.
Harlan County High School English Teacher Amanda Smith served as the pronouncer, while educators Gina Stewart and Donna Cox served as judges.
Harlan County Schools Superintendent Mike Howard commended those who attended the spelling bee.
“It warms my heart to see so many people out for educational opportunities such as this. I like to see big crowds at sporting events also, but I’d rather seem them at academic events such as this,” he said.
Assistant Superintendent Brent Roark gave a detailed presentation on the rules for each of the divisions.
The Harlan County Spelling Bee is sponsored by The Bank of Harlan, Harlan County Chamber of Commerce, Harlan Rotary Club, Harlan County Farm Bureau and Harlan County Public Schools.