Third Time’s the C-h-a-r-m for AARP Spelling Champion Scott Firebaugh

Our man Scott Firebaugh, Knoxville’s most experienced competitive speller and a Grace Christian Academy math teacher, dueled through 479 words and 9 1/2 hours to win AARP’s 15th annual national spelling bee June 18. Last year, he placed second, the year before that, third. On his way to beating 48 other competitors from 18 states, ages 52-86 (Firebaugh’s 56), Firebaugh pulled a shocker, misspelling his second-round word. Luckily, the contest allows for two misspellings before you’re eliminated. Due to a rule change allowing past winners to compete again, he also had to best 2009 winner Michael Petrina Jr., and 2005’s David Riddle. After he correctly spelled “keratomileusis” (surgery to correct the cornea) to take the title, Firebaugh thanked God for his win, praised his competition, and noted the luck of the draw definitely played a part. Just what we’d expect from the kindly guy. He made a similar acceptance speech when besting the field at the Pilot Light’s first-ever adult spelling bee back in February. For the AARP win, Firebaugh received $500; at the Pilot Light, a tiara and trophy. Congratulations, Scott!

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