Originally published in The Daily Progress on March 11, 2023
The Daily Progress-News Virginian Regional Spelling Bee Finals brought out 21 of Central Virginia’s stellar spellers, but this year’s champion Nathaniel Hersey refused to F-O-R-F-E-I-T.
Hersey beat out his competitors with that winning word on Saturday morning on the main stage of Albemarle High School’s auditorium.
He took home an honorary medal and a plaque, as well as a pamphlet to award to his parents whom he said helped him train to win.
Hersey will go on to compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor in Maryland for the semifinals on June 1 and the finals on June 2.
“I’m excited, because I live in Northern Virginia, so it will be more convenient to get to the nationals—shorter drive,” Hersey said with a smile. “I’m nervous because it’s going to be on TV and there are going to be so many more people watching—harder words too.”
Hersey is a 2022 Stride National Spelling Bee champion and was eager to participate in The Daily Progress-sponsored regional spelling bee this year since his school recently joined the program. Hersey, a 13-year-old eighth-grade student at the Virginia Virtual Academy, his school’s spelling bee at the end of January this year before taking the title at Saturday’s bee.
“Good luck in D.C.,” one woman shouted to Hersey on her way out of the auditorium on Saturday. “We’ll be watching you from Ohio!”
Sadie Perry, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Nelson County Middle School, took home second place at Saturday’s bee. Graysen Wickline, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Stone Robinson Elementary School took home third.
This school year, more than 1,000 Central Virginia students competed in their school’s individual spelling bees, eventually narrowing the competition down to the 21 who hit the high school stage this weekend, according to lead literacy coach for Albemarle County Public Schools Catrina Sims.
“Even in a digitally visual world, being able to understand the origin of words, their various components and their use in a sentence or paragraph all are critical elements to developing effective communication skills and lifelong learning,” Sims said in a statement.
In 2022, 14-year-old San Antonio student Harini Logan took home the Scripps National Spelling Bee championship, from which she received a $50,000 cash prize, medal and the Scripps Cup from sponsor the E.W. Scripps Company; a $2,500 cash prize and reference library from Merriam-Webster; and $400 of reference works from Encyclopedia Britannica.
Knikki Hernandez, a language teacher from William Monroe High School in Stanardsville, served as the pronouncer for this year’s regional bee, while Piedmont Virginia Community College career services manager Andre Luck, United Way of Greater Charlottesville Vice President of Community Engagement and Campaign Caroline Emerson and The Daily Progress’ own special sections editor and spelling bee coordinator Richard Alblas served as judges.
This year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee will air live on the ION channel at 8 p.m.
To learn more about Virginia Virtual Academy, visit https://vava.k12.com/.