Holy Rosary eighth-grader comes out on top at diocesan spelling bee [Photo Gallery]

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email
Fourteen students ranging from fifth- through eighth-grade competed in the 2022 Diocese of Nashville Catholic Schools Office Spelling Bee Wednesday, Nov. 16, at the Catholic Pastoral Center. The competition lasted a total of 13 rounds before Laila Murdock, an eighth-grade student at Holy Rosary Academy, was crowned the winner. All participants of the competition as well as the runners up of each school were presented with a certificate of achievement and gift bag. The competitors also received a medal. Dr. Rebecca Hammel, superintendent of schools, poses for a photo with Bee winner Laila Murdock, an eighth-grader from Holy Rosary Academy. Photos by Katie Peterson

After 13 rounds of competition, Laila Murdock, an eighth-grade student at Holy Rosary Academy in Nashville, was crowned the 2022 Diocese of Nashville Spelling Bee champion. She correctly spelled the word “subtlety” to claim the crown.

“It’s so exciting to win and I feel very proud,” Murdock said. “In fifth-grade at my old school, I got to go to the diocesan spelling bee, too, but I got fourth place, so I was trying to do better this time.”

Murdock was previously a student at St. James Catholic School in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

Spelling is important because “it can help you get into high schools and colleges,” Murdock added, “and it can help you get a better occupation depending on what you want to go into when you grow up.”

Murdock was one of 14 students who competed in the bee, after each of the contestants were determined the top spellers of their respective schools.

Holy Rosary held its school spelling bee on Monday, Oct. 24, following the grade-level competitions in fifth through eighth grade.

“Accurate spelling can be considered a ‘lost art’ in the world today as so many of us communicate quickly through text message and other electronic means,” said Kimber Halliburton, principal of Holy Rosary. “However, accurate spelling in many situations can be hugely important in our daily tasks of applying for future considerations for college and careers and developing business proposals.

“Laila is an excellent student and a model student citizen of our school. She excels in nearly everything she attempts as one can always count on,” she added. “Laila puts a great deal of effort into her work and goals. With Laila, the talent is present, but the work ethic is also present, which is a winning combination. It is not surprising she took the top prize to any of us at Holy Rosary Academy.

“Once we learned Laila won the top prize, we quickly announced the news over the intercom,” Halliburton said. “We immediately heard cheers in the hallways and coming out of classroom doorways. Everyone is so excited for Laila and for our school.”

Throughout the competition, Murdock correctly spelled “midday”, “clearance”, “magnifying”, “omnivore”, “refusal”, “snorkel”, “deliberate”, “orchid”, “repellent”, “abscess”, “perilous”, and “subtlety” before being named the winner. 

In round 12, Murdock incorrectly spelled “vitriolic” but remained in the competition since her competitor, Muna Okeke, a fifth-grade student at St. Henry School, incorrectly spelled “cantankerous” in the same round. Murdock’s winning word of “subtlety” came in round 13 after Okeke incorrectly spelled “armaments”.

Fifth-grade student Muna Okeke of St. Henry School took second place overall in the competition. She correctly spelled “tolerable”, “original”, “dealt”, “raspberry”, “northeastern”, “gullible”, “elegance”, “tyranny”, “magnificence”, “rhapsody”, and “stalwart” before misspelling “cantankerous” in the Round 12 stalemate against Murdock and “armaments” in the final round.

Ben Bledsoe, who teaches middle school math at Holy Rosary and attended the bee as a faculty representative, said he was proud of Murdock.

“I’m super impressed because those words were very tough,” Bledsoe said. “She has been studying so hard. That was all natural ability plus putting in the work. She told me she was even looking up last year’s national spelling bee word list and studying them.”

At the end of the competition, each of the contestants were presented with a certificate of achievement, a medal and a gift bag by Dr. Rebecca Hammel, superintendent of schools.

The other contestants included: Kate Joseph, an eighth-grade student at Pope John Paul II Preparatory School in Hendersonville; John Dryden, a seventh-grade student at Christ the King School; Aidan Harris, a seventh-grade student at Sacred Heart School in Lawrenceburg; James Morrow, a seventh-grade student at Immaculate Conception School in Clarksville; Danny Garwood, an eighth-grade student at St. John Vianney School in Gallatin; Casimir Herzer, a seventh-grade student at St. Pius X Classical Academy; Jaci Lukban, a seventh-grade student at St. Joseph School in Madison; Reece Young, a seventh-grade student St. Edward School; Madeline Talley, a seventh-grade student at St. Patrick School in McEwen; Jude Bonvissuto, a sixth-grade student at St. Ann School; Grace Richter, a sixth-grade student at St. Matthew School in Franklin; and Olivia DiMaggio, a seventh-grade student at St. Rose of Lima in Murfreesboro.

The runner ups from each school were also recognized with a certificate of achievement and gift bag for their accomplishments.

The runners up included: Carmen Schick, an eighth-grade student at Pope Prep; Levi Jenkins, a seventh-grade student at Christ the King; Xavier Robertson, a fifth-grade student at Sacred Heart Lawrenceburg; Michael McCraig, a sixth-grade student at Immaculate Conception; Rose Isaac, a fifth-grade student at St. John Vianney; Christian Coakley, an eighth-grade student at St. Pius; Gabrielle Byrne, a fifth-grade student at St. Joseph; Ben Bryant, a sixth-grade student at St. Edward; Jordan Wallace, an eighth-grade student at St. Patrick; Maya Emerson, a fifth-grade student at St. Ann; Michael Abaray, a sixth-grade student St. Matthew; Clara Todd, a seventh-grade student at St. Henry; Valeria Cabrera Rodriguez, a seventh-grade student at Holy Rosary; and Ann Heil, an eighth-grade student at St. Rose.

While unable to attend the diocesan bee, the first-place student and runner up of Sacred Heart School in Loretto – eighth-grade student Hunter Bennett and sixth-grade student Palyn Morris – have also been recognized with a certificate, medal and gift bag.

“The Catholic Schools Office hosts this event each year to bring our schools together in a friendly competition that highlights an academic strength,” Dr. Hammel said. “Competing in the Bee challenges students to exercise poise and presence in front of an audience and of course spell any given word correctly. 

“As in any competition where participants are eliminated to determine the finalist, or winner, there is a lesson of humility, and our spellers today modeled that beautifully,” Dr. Hammel said. “Imagine the nerves when attempting to spell multiple syllable words aloud in proper order in front of an audience without one misstep. On paper the task is much easier. This is why we celebrate each participant and include the schools’ runner-up as well. 

“They put effort into the Bee, competed honorably, and displayed the qualities we seek to instill in our Catholic school students,” she added. “I was so proud of each of them and grateful to share the time with them and their families.”

The judges of the competition included: Sarah Keiffner, English and Latin teacher, chairperson for the Languages and Cultures Department, and moderator for Speech and Debate at Father Ryan High School; Matt Puryear, an English teacher, moderator of the school newspaper, head coach of the boy’s lacrosse team, and football public address announcer at Father Ryan; Deanna Kendall, social studies teacher, registrar, and technology coordinator at St. Cecilia Academy; and Kathy Boles, director of exceptional learners for the Catholic Schools Office.  

Subscribe to our email list

Keep your finger on the pulse of Catholic life in Middle Tennessee by subscribing to the
weekday E-Register here.

* indicates required