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Heard-Mixon fifth-grader named Newton schools Spelling Bee winner
Rylan Yeager
From left, county spelling bee winner Rylan Yeager of Heard-Mixon Elementary School and runner-up Cameron Rutberg of Newton County Theme School. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — Heard-Mixon Elementary School fifth-grader Rylan Yeager outlasted 18 other students through 17 rounds Friday to win Newton County School System’s (NCSS) 2022 District Spelling Bee.

Rylan and the runner-up, Cameron Rutberg of Newton County Theme School, battled it out for multiple rounds before the Heard-Mixon student successfully spelled “drizzle” to win the competition at Porter Performing Arts Center.

“I was so happy,” Rylan said. 

“I did not think I would win, and I did not even know there was a trophy for this one. I thought there was only a trophy for the national (spelling bee),” she said while clutching her blue and gold award.

Rylan had to sit through three rounds of not competing while Bee officials called contestants back up to the stage after none were able to spell the words they were given.

Cameron, a fifth-grader, was able to get past the others who returned to the stage. But he earned the runner-up spot after not being able to out-spell Rylan in the final rounds.

Rylan noted she prepared for the Bee by asking people to give her practice words. On the the morning of the Spelling Bee she even tried reading a dictionary for some last-minute studying, she said.

She added that she was somewhat surprised by the difficulty of many of the words called in the Bee.

Words like “mortification,” “bivouac” and “Cantonese” were among those tripping up spellers. Other words originated in India or in 1700s Europe, while geographical names like Des Moines, Iowa’s capital city, also were thrown in.

“There were some really hard words in this one,” she said. “Some of them were very easy and basic but some of them were words I’ve never even heard of.”

As a result, Rylan said she would definitely be reading her dictionary to help prepare for the upcoming competition representing Newton County Schools in the Regional Bee at Edwards Middle School in Conyers Feb. 26.

Penny Mosley, NCSS director of elementary schools, said she was “very proud of Rylan.”

“She did a phenomenal job today. Many of the words called were pulled from the Scripps National Spelling Bee winners’ list, so they weren’t easy,” Mosley said.

“Rylan is only in fifth grade and was competing against the best elementary and middle school spellers in the county. Her win says a lot about her ability. 

“As a result, I have no doubt she will represent our school system very well in the Regional Spelling Bee next month,” Mosley said.

NCSS Director of Public Relations Sherri Partee contributed to this report.