Clay Hill fifth-grader Lindsey Muckenfuss almost wasn't Dorchester District 4's spelling champ.

After she won her school's bee, Lindsey, 11, told her teachers and family she didn't want to advance to the district bee.

She was intimidated by the large list of words she was given to study, said her mother, Sheila Muckenfuss. Lindsey is also the daughter of Jimmy Muckenfuss.

"She didn't want to go and I was thinking of giving in to her," Muckenfuss said.

Then Clay Hill curriculum specialist Pamela Smith convinced Lindsey that it was an honor just to represent her school, even if she was eliminated in the first round.

"I studied all I could so I could do my best," said Lindsey.

On Thursday, she outspelled 14 other fifth- through eighth-graders to take home the title.

"I knew she could do it," said Smith. "She's an avid reader and a very bright girl naturally."

The competition came down to Lindsey and Harleyville-Ridgeville Middle School seventh grader Stephanie Sanchez, the daughter of Evelia and Jesus Sanchez.

But when Stephanie, 12, stumbled on "circadian," Lindsey spelled it correctly and went on to also get "comedienne" to take the title.

Stephanie came in second in her school bee to last year's district winner, Gabriele Montuori, who finished in fifth this year after misspelling "porosity." After the bee, he said he knew how to spell the word but misspoke.

Rounding out the top five were: third place, Joyden Glover of St. George Middle School and fourth place, James Erik Faaberg of Williams Memorial Elementary.

Lindsey and Stephanie will advance to Spellbound!, the Lowcountry's regional spelling bee, on March 11 at Charleston Southern University's Lightsey Chapel, where the top 50 spellers from public, private and homeschool will compete.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.