MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- Winner. W-I-N-N-E-R. Winner.
That was the word most used to describe the 14 participants of Mock Road Elementary School's annual spelling bee. Among them were four children of Marines here.
Parents and students filed into the Mock Road Elementary School auditorium where 14 fifth-graders sat in a single row across the stage. The teachers and the principal welcomed the parents and guests while the children chattered as they found their seats. After everyone was settled, the annual competition began.
Maj. Brian Jackson, staff judge advocate from the Base Legal Office, was one of three judges who volunteered for the event.
After a long list of detailed rules was read, the competitors were given a practice round. One by one the students made their way to the microphone in the center of the stage to test their spelling skills and calm their nerves.
Once the children had the chance to gain confidence in the practice round, the real action began.
"It was intense," said Staff Sgt. Carlton Knox, whose son won last year's spelling bee. "My heart was beating so fast."
Each child proved that he had what it took to be on the stage, but as the difficulty of the words increased, the number of active participants decreased. Those who remained grew bolder with each word spelled correctly.
Finally the competition was narrowed down to three: Tiara Smith, Malcolm Knox and Toddra Sandford -- all children of MCLB Albany Marines.
With each word that was correctly spelled, a sigh of relief went through the audience, who seemed to be extremely excited about what was happening in front of them.
"I was sitting on the edge of my seat," said Knox who was smiling ear to ear after the competition. He had good reason to be. In the end it was returning champion Malcolm Knox who narrowly emerged as the Spelling Bee winner.
At one point, Knox misspelled a word. Several members of the audience held their breaths. But Sandford had to spell two words in a row to win -- the word that was misspelled and a new one. When she faltered on the second word, Knox seized his second opportunity to win the competition.
The thunderous applause seemed to indicate that maybe studying and learning may be the cool thing to do.
Knox said he was very excited when he won the competition. He attributed his win to the time studying and the help he received from his parents.
According to Susanne McDonald, Mock Road Elementary School reading intervention specialist, the success of the children was largely due to the input of the parents and the time they invested working with their children.
McDonald also said this was one of the best competitions she has witnessed.
She had prepared a list of 120 words for the competition and by the time the spelling bee ended, they had already reached the 109th word, something she hasn't seen done in the 19 years she has worked at the school.