When he woke up Saturday morning, Max Grimes was nervous.
The Washington Middle School eighth-grader was preparing to head to The Missourian’s regional spelling competition, The Bee, and didn’t have the stomach to eat breakfast. Grimes, 14, was so nervous he almost forgot to study entirely.
“I got in the car and was like, wait a minute, I haven’t studied,” he said. “I quickly Googled a few words just to get ready.”
Once at The Bee, held at East Central College, Grimes was able to settle his nerves enough to outlast 34 other competitors and take home the crown.
Grimes, the son of Dr. James and Sharon Grimes, spelled “adamant” and “rigorous” back-to-back to win the seventh annual Bee.
The event is sponsored by The Missourian and hth companies.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” he said, after the competition. “I’m elated. It was really nice (to win) because I didn’t have to sit down and be nervous again for another 10 minutes.”
The runner-up was Mariah Dodson, a fifth-grade student at Coleman Elementary, Villa Ridge.
The other finalists were Trevor Colinares, eighth grade, Union Middle School; Anthony Dilly, sixth grade, Augusta Elementary; Daniel Hennig, sixth grade, New Haven Elementary; Vincent Hoang, fifth grade, South Point Elementary;
Kristina Fulton, seventh grade, The Fulton School at St. Albans; Catherine King, seventh grade, Our Lady of Lourdes School; and Elena Roewe, seventh grade, Immanuel Lutheran.
It took six rounds to narrow the field of 35 down to the final 9. Four more rounds followed until only Grimes and Dodson were left.
Dodson spelled two words correctly before missing “adamant” and leaving the door open for Grimes to win.
Grimes admitted he wasn’t sure how to spell the word, but guessed correctly. This was his first trip to The Bee. He’s competed in spelling competitions for several years, but had never made it this far.
The difference this year may have been his younger sister, Maddie. The younger Grimes, a sixth-grader at Clearview Elementary, also was a competitor at this year’s event.
Max said having his sister around was a big help.
“I had someone to talk to,” he said. “She was comforting.”
Grimes said he felt like he got better as the event went on. Before spellers were eliminated, he said he had too much time between words.
“In the early rounds, you’d get it right, and then you’d be relieved for like two spellers,” he said. “Then you’d be nervous for the rest of them. It keeps you more in the zone that way — I feel like I do better (with fewer competitors).”
Grimes said the only word that tripped him up on the day was “palmetto.”
“I got that and I was like, ‘Oh. Oh my,’ ” he said. “I’ve never ever in my life heard that before.”
Like Grimes, Dodson said she was nervous for the event. Her runner-up finish was a repeat for her school. Last year Nolan Vilcek, a fifth-grader from Coleman Elementary, took second.
Dodson, 11, credited her parents, Ryan and Lynda Dodson, for helping her prepare.
“My mom made flash cards,” she said. “We would do a couple at a time. She would make me read them and spell them back to her.”
Dodson said this was her first year competing at The Bee, but she plans to be back. She now knows what it takes to win and hopes to build on this experience in the future.
“I’m going to practice a lot more,” she said.