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Polenta to cheer about for bee winner
0131 Ashlyn Wiggins winning word
Ebenezer Middle School seventh grader Ashlyn Wiggins prepares to spell polenta to win the Effingham County Spelling Bee. Polenta is a cornmeal mush. - photo by Photo by Calli Arnold

Ashlyn Wiggins, a seventh grader from Ebenezer Middle School, was stunned when the judges nodded that she had spelled her final word correctly.

“I can’t believe that I actually won,” she said after the bee.

After going word for word against runner up Ryan Bresnan of South Effingham Elementary for more than 10 rounds, Wiggins won the Effingham County Spelling Bee with the word “polenta.”

“No, I have no idea what some of those words mean,” Wiggins said.

Seven were knocked out in the first round. Then round two took five more. By the end of round three, Wiggins and Bresnan were the only ones on the stage.

Tensions rose as one would spell a word correctly, then misspell their next. Then they’d both miss a word and the other would spell one correctly and miss the next. It took more than a dozen words before Wiggins’ “polenta” finish.

Parents, grandparents, siblings and friends packed the Effingham County College and Career Academy last Thursday to see who would out-spell everyone in the contest. ECCA culinary students donated bee-shaped cookies and sweet lemonade for the audience to enjoy during the bee.

The 17 contestants from each of the elementary schools and from each grade at the middle schools won free Chik-fil-a sandwiches for their participation. Wiggins was awarded a family dinner at Chick-fil-A along with her title as county spelling bee champion.

Other contestants were: Tejas Patel, Baylor Thompson, Marshal Liesen, Jake Barton, Autumn Gray, Andrew Boyette, Kodi Reno, Payton Rahn, Brendan Sanback, James Pratt, Jeffery Parys, Abbie Engel, Wyatt Davis, Caitlyn Williams and Colton Guidotti.