How do you spell ‘champion’?

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Kathleen Mabutin is no stranger to competition.

For the last five years, she has rattled off words thrown at her in Henry County’s annual Spelling Bee. After consecutive finishes as a runner-up, the Locust Grove Middle School eighth-grader had one shot left in 2015.

HCS Spelling Bee finalists l. to r: Logan Witham, Union Grove MS; Winner Kathleen Mabutin, Locust Grove MS; and Anne Ocampo, Luella MS. Special photo

“I always get nervous, whether it's a class spelling bee or state,” says Mabutin. “Spelling has usually been one of my strengths, but I make mistakes just like everyone else.”

Nerves notwithstanding, Mabutin made her last attempt count. As a result, she was crowned the county’s 2015 Spelling Bee champion.

“When I won this year I felt pretty amazing,” she says. “After four years of being a runner-up, it was nice to finally call that little champion trophy mine.”

Mabutin survived 28 rounds of competition in the spelling bee. She correctly spelled “paradox” and “angst” consecutively to claim victory.

I honestly didn't even know that,” admits Mabutin. “I never remember winning words, for some reason.”

Mabutin says a great deal of preparation goes into competing in the event each year. As part of that process, she invests a lot of her time researching pronunciations and definitions of words on her spelling list.

“Since I’m more familiar with the words, I guess you can say it's a little easier, but I study just as much, maybe even more, in comparison to the previous years,” she says.

Mabutin won the title of county champion by defeating last year’s winner, Union Grove Middle School’s Logan Witham, who finished in second place. Third place went to Anne Ocampo of Luella Middle School.

Each of them received mementos including cash prizes from area sponsors after their performances in the spelling bee. They will now head to the Region 5 at Sequoyah Middle School in Riverdale Feb. 28, says Henry County Schools spokesman J.D. Hardin.

“Students from nearby Clayton, Coweta, Fayette, Griffin-Spalding, and Rockdale counties will also be competing for the chance to move on to the state competition, which will be held at Georgia State University on Friday, March 20,” says Hardin.

Hardin adds that Aliyah Persaud of Woodland Elementary School was recognized as the highest-finishing elementary student in the county competition.