Nervously, she waited for the word that would decide her fate.
Then she heard “prabhu,” and a small smile appeared on her face.
“It was pretty easy,” Lee said after she had correctly spelled the word, which means master. "I remembered that word, remembered it on the list I studied."
Lee, 14, of Weaver High School, was the winner in the 11th round of the annual Calhoun County Spelling Bee, held Tuesday at the Donoho School. Her victory gives her the chance to compete in the state spelling bee championship March 5. One of 36 students from all the elementary and middle schools in the county to compete, Lee won $300 while Poytress, the 13-year-old runner-up from White Plains Middle School, won $200.
"I thought we had a great field ... I was very impressed with how well they all performed," said Laura Phillips, coordinator for the spelling bee.
Three-time county spelling bee winner and last year's state bee winner, Meghana Giri, who aged out this year, spoke at the start of the event to offer words of encouragement.
"Spelling is not really a talent," Giri said. "People who achieve all of these accomplishments don't just wake up and do them ... it takes discipline ... and you have to love to do it."
Poytress said she practiced for two months for her third entry into the spelling bee.
"I really like to spell; I don't know why," Poytress said with a smile.
Lee said she studied for a month and wanted to do well since she would age out next year.
"The list came with spelling tips and knowing the language of origin helped me the most," Lee said.
Lee said she planned to save her money for now.
"I think I'm gonna save it to help me one day move to a different country," she said.
Staff Writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.