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Charlie Cotter of Ontario stands with Winston Greene, a pronouncer for the bee.

MANSFIELD -- Charlie Cotter has always been a natural at reading and spelling, but the Stingel Elementary student battled some jitters while competing in last week's area spelling bee.

Nevertheless, Cotter bested the competition and took first place in the 5th annual Richland County Third Grade Spelling Bee.

"It was amazing. To see him work hard and be strong and win, it just makes you very, very proud," said Charlie's mother, Holly Cotter. "He was nervous but very excited after he won."

Approximately 60 third graders competed in this year's bee, which took place Feb. 18 at the Holiday Inn in downtown Mansfield. Students began the competition in four semifinal groups. The top five spellers from each group made it into the final round.

Cotter won by correctly spelling the word "Autumn" during a back-and-forth spell-off with runner-up Neviah Woods of Madison. Nolan Slusher of Ontario finished third.

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Third grader Neviah Woods of Madison Local Schools poses for a photo after taking second place in the 5th Annual Richland County 3rd Grade Spelling Bee.

Kyle Gordon, assistant principal at Madison South Elementary School, served as this year's pronouncer and judge.

"Third grade is typically the year where the state tests come into play. Recently, with the implementation of the 3rd grade reading guarantee, it can make 3rd grade stressful for students and families," Gordon said. "This is a great way for them to have some fun and display the skills they've learned through the years."

Linda Burrage, the bee's founder and coordinator, started the competition while working as a substitute teacher in the Mansfield City School district.

Burrage founded the bee to encourage an interest in literacy and help them prepare for 3rd grade state testing. She also wanted to create an event that could bring families and the community together.

"The spelling bee isn't about winning or losing. It's about literacy, community building and fostering the successful futures of these students," Burrage said. 

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Staff reporter focused on education and features. Clear Fork alumna. Always looking for a chance to practice my Spanish. You can reach me at katie.ellington@richlandsource.com