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SAC student wins spelling bee after third try

  • Twelve-year-old St. Augustine's College student Jee'Von Pratt smiles as he holds the first place trophy of the Bahamas National Spelling Bee. Pratt emerged as the winner after nearly being eliminated in an earlier round, but was allowed to re-enter after an appeal was made on his behalf. His winning word was “billon”. Photo: Torrell Glinton

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Mar 20, 2017

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After 17 rounds and four hours of intense competition, 12-year-old St. Augustine’s College student Jee’Von Pratt won the 20th Bahamas National Spelling Bee last night at Atlantis, after an “oversight” led to his wrongful elimination.

Pratt, whose winning word was “billon”, was reinstated after his coaches appealed to judges that he had been eliminated from the ninth round unfairly after incorrectly spelling a word, as the other two competitors also spelled their words incorrectly in the same round.

According to the rules, because all three remaining contestants spelled their words incorrectly, each student should have remained in the competition.

Judges admitted that it was a simple mistake that “had to be corrected”.

After three rounds (which were eventually taken off the record), and much discussion, Pratt was reinstated.

Minutes later, he beat India Bowleg, 11, of Gateway Christian Academy, and later, Sarthak Saxena, 11, of St. Andrew’s School, making it the second year in a row a St. Augustine’s student has won the prestigious title.

Pratt, who said he studied for the competition two hours a day since he started school back in September, told The Nassau Guardian that he was in shock, but is extremely proud of himself for “bouncing back”.

“Yes, this is my third time in the competition,” he said.

“I was in a tug-o-war with my mind, because I didn’t win the last times I participated and a student from my school won last year.

“I didn’t feel pressured, though. My teachers, friends and family gave me a lot of support and they believed in me.”

He said, “When they eliminated me, I was disappointed.

“I wasn’t angry because I know that I came far. But I was extremely happy to win.

“I feel like all of my studying paid off. I feel like I have made my school, friends and family happy.”

Pratt previously represented Nassau Christian Academy in grades five and six.

Pratt’s coaches, Xavrine Nurse and Charlain Collins, who are both English language teachers at his school, said they saw the star student on the spelling bee stage for the first time in 2015 and were immediately drawn to him.

The teachers got the ”surprise of their life” when the student they had once admired from a distance wandered into the halls of St. Augustine’s and became a part of the “Big Red Machine”.

“We saw him on stage in 2015 and from then we saw his talent, and we were so happy that his parents chose SAC to send him to,” Collins said.

“From day one in September we grabbed him.

“He’s been working so hard.

“He’s a top student in the seventh grade at SAC so he has been keeping everything together.

“We are still in shock.

“When they told him to leave after he misspelt the word I felt sad, and after we appealed it we thought the judges would not allow it and I was upset, but I had to keep calm.

“I prayed to God and everything worked out in the end.”

Pratt will represent The Bahamas in the Scripps National Spelling Bee Competition.

Though he has worked tremendously hard for his national title, greater work awaits.

“What a lot of people don’t understand is when you get to this stage, the old list that we worked so hard on is out of the window,” Knowles said.

“There is a new list with new words.

“Washington is a completely different ball game, so we have a whole lot of preparation waiting for him.”

Pratt’s father, Austin, said he never once gave up on his son throughout the competition and is anxious for his future.

He described his son as quiet, hard-working, extremely ambitious and mannerly.

In addition to an all expense paid trip to the international competition in Washington, D.C., Pratt won $750 spending money, an HP mini notebook, Webster’s 3rd New International Dictionary, a one-year subscription to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award ($100 U.S. savings bond), a watch, an iPad, wireless speakers, and a cell phone.

Saxena and Bowleg will accompany him to Washington.

The Nassau Guardian is a sponsor of the spelling bee.




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