OAKWOOD - Carolina Santiago, a 7th grade student at West Hall Middle School, is no stranger to the Hall County Spelling Bee. She remembers all too well how she missed one letter in the word 'malachite' a year ago.
"I said m-a-l-o and is was m-a-l-a," said Santiago.
This year, however, Santiago, was flawless and spelled her way to a first place finish in the county competition, spelling the word 'howitzer' for the win. The 7th grader acknowledged that the other words she was dealt (annihilation, macrocosm, comedienne, for example) were words she had studied, but the winning word was new to her.
"I though it was h-o-u, but then I thought of the word 'how'...and so, I was like, okay," she said. Then she dove right in, and spelled her winning word correctly.
Santiago, a native of Cuba who speaks both English and Spanish, said she has always loved reading, and when she was a little girl, she always selected books over toys when given a choice.
Santiago's closest competitor was Evelyn Karkalamudi from Chestnut Mountain Elementary School.
The 4th grader was one of the youngest competitors in the group of 31 students. She stumbled on the word 'bayou,' but she will travel with Santiago to the District Spelling Bee, which is scheduled for March 1 in Winder.
The 2nd runner-up in the competition was Pratham Adajania, a 6th grader from South Hall Middle School.
West Hall Middle School hosted this year's competition at Blackshear Place Baptist Church.