DEXTER — After waiting for judges to deliberate whether or not they would accept an appeal from a competitor who had been disqualified, Nathaniel Kuhn, 13, took to the microphone once more at the 32nd annual Scripps Regional Spelling Bee Finals for students in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

Given “criteria” as the championship word to determine whether he would be crowned the winner, the Carthage Middle School student gave a slight smile and confidently and correctly spelled the word, thus ensuring his ticket to the 93rd annual Scripps National Spelling Bee later this year.

After winning, he said it “felt pretty good” and that nationals would “be a big step because I’ve never been to nationals.”

Held Thursday night in the General Brown Junior-Senior High School’s auditorium and sponsored by the Watertown Daily Times, the 32nd annual bee had a total of 18 students in grades four through eight competing for the title.

Along with bragging rights, Nathaniel received Merriam-Webster’s 2020 Unabridged Online Certificate, courtesy of Merriam-Webster, Inc., the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award 2020 United States Mint Proof Set, courtesy of Jay Sugarman, and a Britannica Online Premium one-year subscription courtesy of Merriam-Webster, Inc.

He was cheered on in the audience by his mom, Amber Kuhn, as well as his brother and sister.

“They’re supportive of me and come to all of my competitions,” he said.

Coming in second place, Emily Belcher, 13, South Jefferson, received Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition, courtesy of Merriam-Webster, Inc. Elijah Bush, 12, of Augustinian Academy, along with Nathaniel and Emily, received a weekly classroom set of Watertown Daily Times newspapers for the remainder of the school year.

All participants received certificates of participation as well as a book, and those who placed in the top six received trophies for their efforts.

In Nathaniel’s opinion, the best part of competing in spelling bees is “getting to meet people and having friendly competition.”

While this will be Nathaniel’s first time competing on a national scale and was his first time competing in the regional finals in Dexter, he is no stranger to spelling bees, having made it to the state level while living in Alabama two years ago and placing 16th.

Nathaniel said to prepare, he had his mom go over words with him to study.

On heading back to the national bee, he said she is excited and looking forward to the opportunity, and will be doing even more prep before competition day.

He said he is “absolutely excited” and thinks he will “get to, like, the fifth round and then get knocked out.”

The 93rd annual Scripps National Spelling Bee will be held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, Fort Washington, Md., from Sunday, May 24 through Friday, May 29.

Spellers can compete until they’re 15, or until they’ve completed eighth grade. There is no lower age limit for competitors.

The top six competitors at the 32nd Scripps Jefferson-Lewis-St. Lawrence Regional Spelling Bee were:

1. Nathaniel Kuhn, 13, Carthage

2. Emily Belcher, 13, South Jefferson

3. Elijah Bush, 12, Augustinian Academy

4. Avery Muldovan, 13, Belleville Henderson

5. Israel Moore, 13, Beaver River

6. Alexandra Ives, 13, Thousand Islands

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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