Fifth-grader "Emory the memory" beats older kids to become Charleston County's top speller

Top speller Emory Naylor, a fifth-grader at Stiles Point Elementary School, gets a hug from his beaming-with-pride sister, Olivia, 8, after winning the Charleston County School District's spelling bee Thursday. Buy this photo

A fifth-grader who out-spelled 45 other top spellers from around Charleston County Thursday night had already announced a few months ago that he was going to do it, according to his father.

Emory Naylor, a fifth-grader at Stiles Point Elementary School, started studying words a couple months ago and announced, "I'm a genius speller," according to his father, Nathan Naylor of James Island.

His dad, Nathan, is a former teacher who is now a Web developer, and his mom, Angela Naylor, teaches at James Island Elementary School.

Emory's father was skeptical of his son's bold claim and starting quizzing him. Emory would miss a word occasionally but then never miss it again, he said.

"We call him Emory the memory," he said.

Emory was among the youngest students at the spelling bee, which was for students in fifth through eighth grades. The competition went on for more than 60 rounds, and Emory smiled every time he walked up to the microphone. When it came down to the final two rounds, he won by correctly spelling "dreidel" and then "Wiccan."

Masilan "Masi" Sundara, a sixth-grader at Cairo Middle School, finished second. He and Emory went back and forth for nearly 30 minutes, both nailing such words as "chary," "angstrom," "lederhosen," "gestalt," "picaresque" and "kirtle."

As it turned out, four students dominated the event. They continued to perform flawlessly for about 50 rounds, tearing through words like "pitchblende," "klompen" and "duenna." The judges remarked that they had never seen anything like it.

The other two top finishers were Denise Luong, a sixth-grader at CE Williams Middle School, and Dominick Gibbs, an eighth-grader at West Ashley Middle School. Each of the top four got a trophy.

The top 18 spellers from Thursday's competition will join the top spellers from Berkeley and Dorchester counties for Spellbound! on March 11 at Charleston Southern University. The winner of Spellbound! will get an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The Post and Courier is a sponsor.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.

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