Spelling success: Area students prepare for state bee with trip to Washington on the line

March 12, 2018 9:47:41 AM

Slim Smith - [email protected]


A student each from Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties will be among those competing Tuesday in the Mississippi Spelling Bee at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Rose E. McCoy Auditorium at Jackson State University. The state winner will qualify for the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. in May. 


The state bee will be broadcast live on the Mississippi Public Broadcasting channel, as well as live-streamed at mpbonline.org. 




Chloe Barr 


Lowndes County spelling champion 


Age: 13 


School: Heritage Academy 




Chloe Barr has never been to Washington, D.C. 


She hopes to do something about that Tuesday. 


Barr, a seventh-grader at Heritage Academy, hopes to punch her ticket to Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington by winning the Mississippi Spelling Bee, which will be held Tuesday in Jackson. 


"That would be so exciting," she said. "I'm going to be nervous, but hopefully, I'll get over that. I'd love to go to Washington." 


She's already taken the first step by winning the Lowndes County Spelling Bee this year. She won the county competition two years ago, as well, narrowly missing out on a shot at the national competition in the regional bee in Memphis, Tennessee, in which she participated in lieu of competing at the state event. 


Although she has been reading since day care, Barr said reading is a lot like her other passion, dancing. 


"Both take a lot of practice," she said. "In dancing, you have to remember the steps. In reading, it's remembering the words you study." 


Barr said she has devoted "hours and hours" of study in preparation for the state spelling bee.  


"Usually, I'll go over the list," she said. "If I miss a word, I'll write it down and then study it so I can remember it the next time." 


Barr's mom, Melinda Barr, said her daughter attacks the challenge of the spelling bee with the same enthusiasm she approaches dance. 


"She's always busy," Melinda said. "But she'll put in the work." 


Melinda said her daughter's experience conjures memories of when she was young. 


"I spent hours and hours studying and won some spelling bees when I was a kid, too," she said. "Maybe some of that has rubbed off on Chloe." 


Chloe, 13, is the daughter of Brad and Melinda Barr of Columbus. 




Julia Schloemer 


Oktibbeha County spelling champion 


Age: 11 


School: Overstreet Elementary 




If spelling bees awarded dramatic flair, Julia Schloemer would have a big advantage on her fellow competitors at Tuesday's Mississippi Spelling Bee in Jackson. 


Schloemer, an 11-year-old fifth-grader at Overstreet Elementary School, won the title in the Oktibbeha County Spelling Bee on her third try. The spelling bee is open to students in grades 3-8. 


Asked to give an example of her spelling prowess by spelling "souvenir," Schloemer's facial expression tells the story. 


First, she wrinkles her nose in mock confusion. 


"That was one of the French words on the list. And I seriously struggle with French words," she said, her face then lighting up as she confidently rattled off the spelling, tracing the letters with her finger in the palm of her hand, a trick she uses to help her spell. 


As a fifth-grader, Schloemer will likely be one of the younger competitors in the state competition. 


"That's what makes me nervous," she said. 


But the nerves she's feeling as she gets ready for the state competition pale in comparison to her first attempt at the county spelling bee in 2016. 


"I was like, 'Oh, my gosh! I'm going to the county spelling bee! What if I lose? What if I win? What if I lose?' I was talking to myself all the time," Schloemer said. "Then, when I got put out, I was like, 'Oh, OK.' I wasn't exactly excited." 


Even so, Schloemer finished fifth as a third grader. Last year, she moved up to third place. 


By the time this year's spelling bee came along, she had conquered her battle with nerves. 


"I was like, 'OK. I'm just going to do it and see what happens,'" she said. 


What happened, of course, was that Schloemer won the county spelling bee and a spot in Tuesday's state competition. 


Schloemer said she's loved books since her earliest memory. 


"My parents and grandparents used to read to me and I've always loved reading," she said. "Right now, I'm reading 'Little Women.'" 


TaNaya Bluitt, who teaches fifth-grade English, said she was is surprised Schloemer won the county spelling bee, even though she competed against older students. 


"She's one of my top students," Bluitt said. "I think some students are just naturally good at spelling. Julia studies hard, but I think she also has some natural talent for spelling." 


Schloemer is the daughter of Amelia and Zack Plair and Charlie Schloemer, all of Starkville. Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch. 


Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]