CHURUBUSCO — Seven students battled it out for the title of best speller at the 2018 Whitley County Spelling Bee at Churubusco Jr./Sr. High School Jan. 24.

The contestants each hold the title of champion speller at their respective schools, advancing to the county competition with winning words like “taxidermy” and “oceanography.”

Smith-Green Community Schools superintendent Daniel Hile pronounced the words for the event.

Students were eliminated over four rounds of spelling. Maxwell McKinney, a fifth grader from Coesse Elementary School, was the last one standing and was awarded a champion medal. His winning word was “thermal.”

After McKinney was named champion, Hile announced that, for the first time since the high school had been hosting the county spelling bee, the three runners-up would compete for the title of first runner-up.

Breckden Lizak, grade 5 at Little Turtle Elementary School, Jordan Potter, grade 6 at Indian Springs Middle School, and Natalie Sheets, grade 5 at Northern Heights Elementary School battled it out for eight rounds of spelling. Potter came out on top and was awarded a medal for first runner-up. His winning word was “rupture.”

Potter said he felt nervous on stage too, but his mom helped him prepare for the spelling bee.

“I looked at the words and then my mom said them to me and I spelled them. I also wrote them down,” he said.

All of the students were recognized for their participation with a certificate and round of applause.

Maxwell’s mom, Kara McKinney, said she was proud of all of the work the students put in to make it to the county-level competition.

“It’s exciting. When they put the work in, it’s nice to see the reward for them. Each student put in so much, and I’m proud of each and every one of them up here and our community,” she said.

Also competing in the spelling bee were Madison Cripe, grade 5 at South Whitley Elementary School; Ethan Hess, grade 5 at Churubusco Elementary School; and John Trey “JT”, grade 5 at Mary Raber Elementary School.