CHARLOTTE – Twenty-six students, including Osahon Tokunboh of Huntersville, sat nervously in their seats at the start of the 60th Charlotte Observer Regional Spelling Bee on Feb. 24 at ImaginOn.

The spelling bee featured 26 students ranging from third to eighth grades who qualified by winning their district spelling bees earlier this year.

Many of the students used spelling bee tactics such as writing the word out on their hand or name-tag with their finger before spelling it out loud.

“Caboose” was the 15th word of the competition and the first one that trumped a speller. Other words misspelled in the first round included “transect,” “bandersnatch” and “powwow.”

Osahon, an eighth-grader at Cannon School in Concord, proved to be a strong competitor, spelling words such as “toucan,” “langosta,” “subterfuge” and “langlaugh.”

He finished 11th after he was eliminated in the 12th round for misspelling “carob.”

Last year’s winner Claire McCrea, of Hickory, ended her chance to keep her title in the 15th round after misspelling “iniquity.”

Ashwin Subramaniam, who represented Union County Schools, was awarded third-place after misspelling “cantilever” in the 22nd round.

Ashwin was the only competitor to ask for the language of origin, part of speech, alternate pronunciations definition or for the word to be used in a sentence every time he received a word.

This was the second consecutive year that he finished third.

Second place was awarded to Davis Troutman who represented Mecklenburg County Independent Schools.

He battled Mary Polking, who represented Mecklenburg Area Catholic Schools, for the last 12 rounds, after being given two grace rounds when Mary misspelled two championship words in rounds 24 and 32.

Mary secured the championship title in the 34th round, her third chance at a championship word, when she spelled “plexure” correctly.

Prior to winning the bee, Mary was eliminated in round 11 after choosing an incorrect definition for the word “strict,” in which she claimed to have heard as “stripped.”

She appealed the judges’ decision at the end of the round and was entered back into the bee.

She was required to answer the correct definition for “cummerbund” before advancing to the 12th round.

Mary misspelled the first championship word, “reservoir,” in the 24th round and the second championship word, “foveate,” in the 32nd round.

Mary won an all-paid trip for two to Washington, D.C., where she will compete in the 88th Scripps National Spelling Bee.