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Cousins duel at spelling bee

Riley Stratton reacts to winning the Austin Public Schools district spelling bee Wednesday. -- Trey Mewes/trey.mewes@austindailyherald.com

There was one speller to rule them all.

Sixth-grader Riley Stratton wasn’t prematurely declared the victor, but he spelled “prematurely” correctly to finish a 15-minute spelling duel against his cousin, fellow sixth-grader Kaya Feist. Stratton emerged Wednesday at Ellis Middle School as Austin Public Schools’ district spelling bee champion.

“I thought, ‘Whoa, my cousin can spell,’” Feist said.

Sixth-grader Kaya Fiest spells a word during the final rounds of the Austin Public Schools district spelling bee.

Stratton, who placed fifth in the sixth-grade spelling bee to get into the district bee, didn’t study for the bee. To be honest, he didn’t even know the spelling bee was on Wednesday.

“I didn’t (expect it) at all,” he said.

Feist, who said she was nervous, studied hard words in anticipation.

“I didn’t think I was going to do this well,” she said. “I’m going against eighth-graders and they know more words.”

Their competition dropped quickly, with the final four left on stage less than an hour in. After three more rounds, only Stratton and Feist remained.

The two went back and forth, spelling academic, flowery words with ease, until Stratton had a chance to capitalize on an incorrect word by Feist. Stratton entered into a one-word round, where he only had to get the next word right to win. He couldn’t capitalize on his first chance, however.

“I’m thinking, ‘When is this going to end?’” he said.

Feist concentrated on her own words. She said she felt lucky to get as far as she did.

Stratton eventually emerged victorious, however, catching a word he finally knew. He couldn’t keep a straight face while he was spelling.

“I don’t win too many school contests,” he said with a grin.

Stratton, Feist and eighth-grader Alicia Skolte will advance to the regional spelling bee as Austin’s first, second and third place spellers. Though Stratton may have won today’s battle, he may not have beat his cousin in the proverbial spelling war yet.

“I’m just going to try really hard to win at regionals,” Feist said.