Apalachicola Bay Charter School eighth grader River Sheridan felt right at home on the Chapman Auditorium stage Friday morning.
He’d been up there many times, not for the district spelling bee he was taking part in, but as an actor in several Panhandle Players productions.
So, with no hint of stage fright, and a well-studied understanding of the words he could be facing, Sheridan bested the competition, outlasting runner-up Nathaniel Bolinger, an ABC School seventh grader, and third-place Bailey Allen, an ABC School fourth grader.
With the Rev. Donna Gerold from Trinity Episcopal Church as the pronouncer, and Bring Me A Book Franklin’s Karen Kessel, County Extension Agent Erik Lovestrand and Apalachicola Times Editor David Adlerstein as judges, the competition got underway under the direction of ABC School teacher Leeann Poloronis as coordinator.
Representing Franklin County Schools, under the direction of Harolyn Walker, were fourth graders Danny Oppert and Sienna Polous, fifth graders Robyn Jones and Troy McKenzie, sixth graders Reshard Robinson and Summer Bunnell, seventh graders Iliana Gilmore and Corbin Pritchard, and eighth graders Alondra Jimenez and Kylie Rudd.
Representing ABC School were the following finishers from the various grade levels, with the third place alternate taking part in the district bee in the event the first or second place winners couldn’t be there. ABC School spelling winners were fourth graders 1) Keeli Bray and 2) Bailey Allen; fifth graders 1) Nolan Alford 2) Owen Juno and 3) Savannah Jane Sparks; sixth graders 1) Josiah Friddle 2) Mya Huckeba and 3) Krista Varnes; seventh graders 1) Nathaniel Bolinger 2) Reece Juno and 3) Taylor Mallon; and eighth graders 1) Eric Lau 2) Kaiden Faison and 3) River Sheridan.
In the opening round, Bolinger nailed “calculus,” Sheridan “hibiscus,” and Allen “pronto,” as several of the others were eliminated on such tricky ones as “cliques” and “gangrene.”
Franklin County eighth grader Jimenez, who has won the district in the past, was particularly exacting, making sure to receive from Gerold the definition of the word, its origins and its use in a sentence.
Jimenez eventually fell on the word “valise,” but after Bolinger aced “haberdashery,” Sheridan got “corrugated” and Allen correctly spelled “catacombs,” it was on to a third round.
Bolinger got “vocational,” Sheridan “offal,” and Allen “muttonchops” so they moved on.
But this time, Bolinger tripped up on “consonants,” and Allen on “cyanide,” so after Sheridan nailed “redundancy,” and then the championship word “recompense,” he had won.
To determine an alternate, who will represent the district next month in Tallassee at the Big Bend Regional Spelling Bee in the event Sheridan can’t make it, Bolinger and Allen squared off.
Bolinger was right on “amethyst,” Allen stumbled on “harlequin,” and when Bolinger nailed “docile,” he was declared the alternate.
The winner at the Big Bend goes on to the 91st Scripps National Spelling Bee in May in Washington, D.C.
An avid reader, Sheridan, son of John and Candace Sheridan, of Carrabelle Beach, has consumed all the Harry Potter books, and those by Percy Jackson, and the “Hunger Games, which he read on a family’s road trip to Illinois. He said he’ll often read in the car when he goes shopping with his family in Tallahassee.
But beyond all the young adult fiction he’s read, he’s recently taken on two works that were recommended him by Brant Banks, his language arts teacher at ABC.
Sheridan’s been reading “The Last of the Mohicans” by James Fenimore Cooper and “All Quiet on the Western Front,” a 1928 classic about German soldiers in World War I, by Erich Maria Remarque.
Sheridan’s not sure whether science, or humanities, or even theatre, will be his eventual career, but he is sure of one thing. He plans to master the art of writing.
“Writing essays is important in all fields of study,” he said.