Jessie Godbee with her parents David Godbee and Tanya Davis / W.C. Mann
CULLMAN – On Monday evening, Cullman County Schools hosted the 91st annual Cullman County Spelling Bee at Temple Baptist Church, crowning Cullman Middle School’s Jessie Godbee the winner in a field of 22.
Cullman area schools suffered through the effects of the flu, forcing a few changes to the field. Holly Pond Elementary’s entry Darla Fredrick had to back out at the last minute, and both Harmony and Welti sent alternates. The following students competed (listed with bee entry numbers):
Cold Springs Elementary – Reba McCarn, 2
Cullman Middle – Jessie Godbee, 16
East Elementary – Allie-Michelle Stewart, 1
Fairview Elementary – Nicolas Gregory, 18
Fairview Middle – Jackson Babb, 9
Good Hope Elementary – Ace Stricklin, 11
Good Hope Middle – Kaliana Lee, 3
Hanceville Elementary – Karys Henderson, 4
Hanceville Middle – Brady Cleek, 12
Harmony – Olivia Curtis for Cass Baron, 8
Holly Pond Middle – Abigail Kusz, 19
Parkside – Reagan Dunkin, 20
Sacred Heart – Madilyn Clair Kerber, 15
St. Bernard – Joey Ruse, 7
St. Paul’s – Carter Daily, 6
Vinemont Elementary – Breanna White, 21
Vinemont Middle – Mason Fitzgerald, 10
Welti Elementary – Olivia Stallings for Haley Tyree, 13
West Elementary – Willa Smith, 17
West Point Elementary – Mary Beth Penn, 22
West Point Intermediate – Kilona McClure, 5
West Point Middle – Carter Duke, 14
Cullman County Schools Reading Specialist Renee Chambers and Athens State Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Development Elizabeth Pruett served as pronouncers. Cullman County District Judge Rusty Turner and Cullman County Circuit Judge Gregory Nicholas, along Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce President Leah Bolin and attorney Champ Crocker were the judges. Sacred Heart School Principal Gregory Hughes and Cullman County Schools Director of Instructional Programs Dr. Anita Kilpatrick served as proctors.
After multiple rounds of spelling and vocabulary, the bee came down to Godbee, Brady Cleek, Willa Smith and Abigail Kusz. The four students matched each other evenly for a few rounds, until finally only Kusz and Godbee were left. After Kusz missed “flotilla,” Godbee smiled through her spelling of “artichoke” to win.
According to her parents David Godbee and Tanya Davis, the CMS student is no stranger to spelling bees. This was her second county-level match as a Cullmanite, and she competed in four county tournaments in Winston County before her family moved to Cullman. This will be her third trip to the state spelling bee.
CMS Principal Lane Hill came to cheer his school champion, and afterward to celebrate his school’s second consecutive county victory.
He told The Tribune, “She’s a great student, always does well in school. The great thing about it is, she’s a seventh grader, so she has an opportunity to come back next year and do this again, so we’re looking forward to it.
“Second year in a row Cullman Middle School has won the spelling bee in the county, so we’re proud of our kids and all that they do, and our teachers, too–got a great group of teachers teaching these kids.”
Godbee advances to the state spelling bee on March 10 at First United Methodist Church in Alabaster, for a chance to compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Maryland, near Washington D.C. on May 29-31. The overall winner of the national competition will receive a $40,000 cash prize plus a savings bond, along with reference works from Merriam-Webster and Encyclopedia Britannica.
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