Completing the 54th annual Lake County Spelling Bee took quite a bit longer to complete than expected on Feb. 19 at the Ronana Performing Arts Center at Ronan High School.
It took challenge round after challenge round to crown a champion, and the youth who came out on top was St. Ignatius eighth grader Michelle Jury. There is no question Michelle will remember how to spell “lieutenant” for the years to come. That is the word that made her a champion. But don’t downplay the importance of her correct spelling of “cynical” that got her in a position to be the champion.
After the first five rounds of competition, just six of the 40 contestants entered in the spelling bee were still alive. They were, alphabetically, Tyler Corum, Ronan; Elizabeth Cunningham, Polson; Grace Elverud, Charloo; Jeremy Hoskinson, Ronan; Jury; and Lola Schock, St. Ignatius,
The key was that if only one contestant spelled her word correctly, he or she had to also spell a championship word. If they missed it, the contestants in the previous round were back at the podium.
Schock, Hoskinson and Corum were then eliminated. Then Jury was the only speller to get a word correct in round 9, and she was right on the money with “lieutenant” to earn the first-place ribbon. Elverud spelled “hindered” correctly while Cunningham misspelled “chorus” in the spell-off for second place. Then Elverud correctly spelled “grinch” to claim the red ribbon and Cunningham took home a white ribbon for third place.
“We had so many of those challenge rounds,” Lake County Superintendent Carolyn Hall said. “It was very unique that we could bring back that whole group over and over again before we got that champion ... You have to go back to that same group and see who is going to stand”
Both Jury and Elverud qualified for the Treasure State Spelling Bee on March 16 at Rocky Mountain College in Billings. However, Elverud had a scheduling confict and is not able to attend the state meet. Therefore, Cunningham will advance to state.
“We sponsor the students and one parent,” Hall said, in terms of the Lake County Valley Foundation helping with traveling and accommodation expenses. Each family gets $400.
The top spellers at the Treasure State Spelling Bee qualify for the national tournament.