Evans Middle School eighth-grader Ashley Kim won the Columbia County spelling bee Monday.
In the 16th round, she correctly spelled the word "acquittal" to take the title.
Brian Edwards, a Columbia Middle School eighth-grader, was the runner-up. Cameron Gallahue, a seventh-grader at Greenbrier Middle School, finished third.
"I was really excited. I didn't think I was going to win," Ashley said.
She said she was nervous but stayed calm by thinking of the words she had to spell.
Each of the county's 17 elementary and seven middle schools had a speller in the contest.
Jacob Smith, a third-grader at North Harlem Elementary, was the youngest competitor.
Bel Air Elementary fifth-grader Brittany Osborne stayed in the contest the longest of the elementary school pupils, bowing out in the ninth round.
The words Ashley spelled correctly included talc, contraband, asthma, illuminate, visualize, corridor, psalm, amenity, hysterical, incompetence, subsidize and despicable.
Mike Lindsey, the director of the school system's middle school and gifted student learning programs, said this contest was the longest spelling bee in recent memory.
"Each and every individual on this stage is a winner," he said.
Ashley said she got her spelling ability from her mother, Nicole Kim, a former language arts teacher.
"She was home-schooled for a lot of years, so I think that had a lot to do with it," Kim said. "We didn't cram, so we were really nervous."
She said her daughter will have to study even harder for the next competition.
Ashley will represent Columbia County in the regional spelling bee at 10 a.m. March 8 at The Augusta Chronicle building, 725 Broad St., Augusta.
The top speller in the region will advance to the 81st annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., on May 28 and 29.
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