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Adams aces bee

1/31/2014

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Justus Nelson visibly was disappointed when he misspelled the word "limerick" at Thursday's 2014 Ellis County Spelling Bee.

He shouldn't have been.

Nelson, a second-grader at Washington Elementary School in Hays and the youngest competitor in this year's county finals, made it all the way to the fourth round and was oh, so close to finishing in the top six overall.

But Nelson has six more years to try to take home that gold medal. And persistence pays off. Just ask Eric Adams.

Adams, an eighth-grader at Hays Middle School, outlasted fellow HMS student Emily Goetz in a highly competitive contest at Fort Hays State University to claim the title in his fifth trip to the county bee.

After Nelson and seven others went out in Round 4, leaving only five spellers, it appeared O'Loughlin Elementary fifth-grader Andrew Duke had the championship in hand when he was the only one to spell his word correctly in the next round.

But "bureaucracy" tripped up Duke, and the other four spellers returned to the stage with him. And the suspense just was beginning.

It took nine more rounds before Adams correctly spelled "obstinate," winning the county championship after Goetz, a sixth-grader at HMS, misspelled "regatta."

Finishing third was Mac Hayes, a seventh-grader at Washington Grade School in Ellis, who made it to the ninth round before going out, assuring Hays Middle School of first and second place.

The title has been a long time coming for Adams, who qualified for the county bee four consecutive years before getting beat out in his school competition last year.

In this, his final year at HMS, Adams finished fifth in his school competition, making him the alternate for the Ellis County Bee.

The only way he would get one more try at that elusive county championship was if one of the other HMS students was not able to compete.

That chance came with a 6 p.m. phone call to the Adams residence.

"We got a call at 6 and were able to get him here at 6:30," Adams' dad, Paul Adams, said after the bee.

The Adams family was about to eat dinner when Eric heard a message on the answering machine saying HMS classmate Kyler Voss was ill and wasn't going to be able to compete.

"We just left (dinner) set," said Adams' mom, Cheryl Shepherd-Adams, who was near tears as her son walked up to her with the gold medal around his neck.

"I still can't believe all this," she added. "I guess we can go eat now."

The Adams family also can mark March 8 on its calendar as a date to remember.

That's the day of the Sunflower Spelling Bee, also at Fort Hays, where Eric Adams will represent Ellis County in an attempt to qualify for nationals.

He admitted he was nervous, but now he will have a little more time to prepare.

Adams' victory keeps the traveling trophy at Hays Middle School for a third consecutive year. It also gave him his third top-three finish at the county finals, the best individual run at the event since Julie Schmeidler from Hays' Kennedy Middle School won back-to-back titles in 2002 and '03.

After tying for third as a Wilson Elementary School fifth-grader in 2011, Adams finished second the next year as a sixth-grader in his first year of middle school before winning it all this year.