This year’s winners of the annual Mount Airy Schools District Spelling Bee are the best of competitors and the best of friends.
Eleven students gathered in the Mount Airy Middle School auditorium Feb. 7 and after several rounds 9-year-old Hailey Martin nabbed top honors and 10-year old Connor Lindsley was the runner-up.
Both have been friends, by their own admission, since before kindergarten when they were on the same tee ball team. Conner remembers drawing a lot in the sand and Hailey remembers the two of them in the fourth grade class of Gina Tompkins at Jones Intermediate. They also live in close proximity to each other.
Hailey won the bee this year on the word persistent. She said last year she finished as runner up in class competition but didn’t advance in the middle school round. Conner was eliminated in this year’s competition at the middle school competition on the word eyelet.
“The weird thing this year was we flipped who was winning and runner-up from what happened before,” said Conner. “What made a big difference this year was just like what happens most of the time, it’s the words that are drawn for you. I think I got the pretty easy words. I was so excited about where I was (in the middle school competition) I wasn’t thinking and I forgot to say the T in the word transatlantic.”
Hailey said her nerves were helped in the middle school competition because she was sitting “with all the other Jones kids” while Conner found himself alone at the very front of the row with no classmates anywhere near.
“I was sitting alone with middle school students,” said Conner. “I tried to get to know them so I wouldn’t be so nervous. The middle school students (Jack Stancil and Christian Parker) were nice. That helped.”
Both are enthusiastic readers and said that they hang out during some classes they naturally gravitate to seperate circles of friends. Hailey said she tends to be the more social of the two at lunch time while Conner said he enjoys reading alone at the quiet table at lunch.
The two say they find a lot of spelling in everything they do and both really enjoy the Lemony Snicket series of books by Daniel Handler. Hailey especially likes where the character of Sunny uses a work that is one-half page in length. Hailey likes geography and art. Conner is studying drum, enjoys music and often uses Christian artist Toby Mack’s song Get Back Up as an inspiration.
“Me and my dad like to swim so we’ve gotten to where we like to smell the chlorine ( in our hair),” said Conner. He added that he would also like to take piano lessons
True to form, both friends have different reactions to the applause they received from classmates when they won the school bee. Hailey took it in stride. Conner found the overwhelming applause left him feeling awkward. Both say their parents are also an inspiration for them.
“They are very competitive,” said Jones Principal Jason Dorsett. “They are driven to be good at whatever they do. The two being such good friends has helped them to achieve this.”
The other contestants in the Mount Airy City Schools Spelling Bee finalists were Liam Overby, Olivia Phillips, William Banfield, Aryale Blevins, Christian Parker, Jack Stancil, Hassan Moore, Brady Sechrist and Meredith Cox.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.