David Hix’s response was quick just as his others had been all day. Yet this time was different.
“Excuse me?” he asked when given an obscure word to spell, drawing a chuckle from the crowd.
On an afternoon when the St. Andrew Catholic School eighth-grader promptly rattled off letters while correctly spelling word after word in 31st Annual The Sun News Regional Spelling Bee on Saturday at St. James High School, the term Meistersinger seemed to briefly trip him up.
Nonetheless, he spelled it correctly and wound up winning the competition and punching a ticket to the Scripps National Spelling Bee to be held in the Washington, D.C., area in May.
“I did not think I was going to get that word right,” Hix said. “That was very scary.”
The word came in one of the later rounds as Hix and St. James Intermediate fifth-grader Hayden Broz went back and forth down the stretch. In the 13th round Broz misspelled the word “tchotchke,” giving Hix a chance to spell one final word in the 14th round to secure the win. He easily spelled Pickelhaube correctly, smiled and shook his opponent’s hand.
His emotions were mild compared to when he was tasked with spelling Meistersinger.
“Extremely excited,” said Hix, a basketball player for his school whose favorite video game is The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. “I did not ever imagine winning this.”
Broz, meanwhile, said he in fact knew the word he misspelled but accidentally left off one letter.
“When I got this close, I was like ‘Man, I think I’m gonna win it,’” said Broz, who enjoys sports and playing Roblox. “But then I got the word wrong. I knew the word, but I forgot the ‘T’ in tchotchke.”
Overall, nearly 50 students from Horry and Georgetown counties elementary, middle and intermediate schools competed Saturday. There were plenty of fist pumps and even one dab along the way as the competition stiffened round after round.
The fifth round began with 15 competitors still alive but dropped to five by Round 6. The eighth round began with a final three and by Round 11 it was just Hix and Broz, who both said they studied vigorously leading up to the competition.
“I just felt my chances of winning were getting lower because my opponents were really good,” said Hix, who wants to design video games when he grows up.
Hix was in the regional competition for the second time, while Broz made his debut Saturday. In the end, Broz proved to be Hix’s biggest competition and, being just a fifth-grader, he’ll have a few other opportunities to make it back.
“I learned a lot of words,” said Broz, who said he wants to be a meteorologist when he grows up. “And hopefully next year they’ll have a lot of the same words.”
By winning, Hix earned an all-expense paid trip funded by The Sun News and The Sun News Educational Foundation for himself and a chaperone to attend the National Spelling Bee on May 26 through June 1. Other champion prizes included: Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award, a one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica Online Premium, numerous passes to local attractions and a trophy from The Sun News.
True to his mannerisms throughout the competition, Hix was animated when looking back on the one word that proved his biggest challenge.
“It was weird because there were so many words I’d never heard of before — like Meistersinger, what’s that?” he said with a smile.