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UC teen survives 25-round battle to claim county spelling bee title

UC teen survives 25-round battle to claim county spelling bee title
UC teen survives 25-round battle to claim county spelling bee title | UC teen survives 25-round battle to claim county spelling bee title, Kizer Harris, Obion County Spelling Bee
Staff Reporter
In retrospect, it was an exciting spelling bee win for Union City Middle School eighth-grader Kizer Harris.
Harris, 13, bested seven other champion spellers from schools across Obion County and Union City to claim top honors in this year’s Obion County Spelling Bee.
He correctly spelled his final two words — polenta and cartilage — to clinch the title in the 25th round Wednesday afternoon at the Union City Municipal Building courtroom.
Harris, the son of Amy Harris of Union City and the late James Harris, was competing in the county spelling bee for the second consecutive year. He finished fourth in last year’s contest.
He said he “kind of” practiced for the competition, but simply finds he can spell “pretty easily.” His favorite school subjects are math and science and he enjoys playing golf and baseball.
Wednesday’s competition lasted 30 minutes and saw Harris going head to head for the final 16 rounds with top-notch speller Kevin Leland, an eighth-grader at Black Oak Elementary School.
Leland lasted into the 24th round, where he stumbled on his spelling of circumlocution. Harris then correctly spelled his word, polenta, and one final championship word, cartilage.
During those exciting 16 rounds of one-on-one competition, Harris correctly spelled words that included surrealist, epilepsy, carnage, incidental, fluoride, gloaming, ensemble, mezzanine, cholera, stroganoff, carbohydrates, afghan, tutelage, tableau, mortgage and — in the 24th round — retrospect.
Leland deftly tackled such difficult words as phylum, philosophize, dilemma, leniency, auditorium, controversy, cellophane, extemporaneous, extra-ordinarily, behemoth, pituitary, scythe, posthumous, jambalaya and debris before he misfired in the 24th round on circumlocution.
The eighth round of competition saw the elimination of Lake Road Elementary seventh-grader Grant Yates, who finished in third place for his effort. He misspelled correspondence, but earlier in the competition had successfully tackled such tricky words as ulterior and siege.
For their wins, Harris, Leland and Yates each received a plaque and monetary prize — $50 for first, $30 for second and $20 for third — from the sponsoring Obion County and Union City education associations.
Harris also won the right to represent Obion County at the Mid-South Spelling Bee, set for March 3 at Al Chymia Shrine Temple in Memphis.
The other five spellers in Wednesday’s county competition were all eliminated in the first four rounds of competition, which began after two practice rounds.
Hillcrest Elementary School seventh-grader Wyatt Henson misfired in the fourth round with his spelling of allergenic and landed in fourth place overall.
The second round was the downfall of the remaining four spellers: Union City Elementary School fifth-grader Eli Jordan, who misspelled accrued; Ridgemont Elementary eighth-grader Michelle Andersen, who stumbled on leisure; South Fulton Middle School seventh-grader Jonathan Hollowell, who faltered on condiment; and South Fulton Elementary fifth-grader Savannah Marks, who misspelled purée.
Word pronouncer Suzanne Powers said each of the competitors had already accomplished something outstanding by having won their school competition to advance to the more difficult county level. Each earned a certificate to mark their achievement.
Obion County Director of Schools David Huss, who presented the awards, said Wednesday’s competition was “one of the best spelling bees” he had witnessed in recent years. He said each of the spellers confidently tackled their given words without hesitation.
“It was absolutely unbelievable,” he said.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at
Published in The Messenger 2.2.12