Summerville -- Two fifth-graders were left on stage with a standing microphone, anxiously anticipating their next word.
Seven rounds down and 49 other students already eliminated, Maddie Spafford and Sam Hobson competed back and forth in the final round of Dorchester District 2's annual spelling bee Thursday at Knightsville Elementary, where 17 elementary and middle schools were represented.
This year was the first time in at least five years in the district that the bee came down to two elementary school students, spelling bee coordinator Elizabeth Rabb said.
Maddie and Sam nearly effortlessly nailed down words, such as flagellum, Mesopotamian and apricot, but then the competition rested on a four-letter noun.
The word was "talc," defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a soft mineral that is a basic silicate of magnesium and is very soapy.
"When I got that word, I didn't know what to expect because I never heard that word in my life," said Maddie, a fifth-grader at Eagle Nest Elementary.
Maddie mistakenly spelled the word with an "e" and a "k," but Sam got it right. All that was left was the deciding word that would secure the win: "mirage."
After the Beech Hill Elementary fifth-grader spoke the last letter, the judges nodded to him. A look of relief crossed Sam's face, and he a gave a quick fist pump.
Sam, Maddie and seven others who placed in the top nine spots at the district bee move on to the regional 2011 Spellbound! Bee competition in March, sponsored by The Post and Courier. They'll compete against students from other local districts, with the winner getting an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to go up against the best spellers in the country.
"I feel very lucky, because some of the words the other children got I probably couldn't spell," Sam said about winning the district bee. "Some of them I didn't even know, but I knew the sound of them and I spelled them correctly."
He said he couldn't have won without help from his parents, who practiced with him each night around the dinner table for several weeks.
"We're absolutely excited and proud of him," said Sam's mother, Tracey Hobson.
The seven other students who will go onto the 2011 Spellbound! in order of their district spelling performance from third to ninth place are Noah Griffin, Julius Salcedo, Bailey Pope, LoMare McPherson, Ashley Plessinger, Jada Williamson and Ben Vonkeller.
Reach Almar Flotildes at 937-5719.