Donald H. Humphreys 2018 Barton County Spelling Bee participants
Baylee Scott, 4th
Payge Cain, 5th
Ian Premer, 4th
Carson Umphres, 5th
Maitland Stoskopf, 6th
Ethan Hammeke, 6th
Jillian Reimer, 5th
Diego Sanchez, 6th
Jacklyn Garcia, 5th
Clara Vazquez Bravo, 6th
Alexandria Omenski, 6th
Parker Dicks, 6th
Central Kansas Christian Academy
Tessa Fry, 8th
Anita Zecha, 7th
Great Bend Middle School
Natalie Williams, 7th
Jade Sanchez, 7th
Ellinwood Grade School
Jeri Bierbrodt, 6th
Julia Schlessiger, 4th
Ellinwood Middle School
Jayden Babcock, 8th
Brooklin Morgan, 7th
Caden Rowan, 8th
Caylee Rowan, 6th
BY VERONICA COONS
While other youngsters were attending basketball games or the movies Friday night, 22 Barton County students in grades 4-8 were home studying for the annual Barton County Spelling Bee they would be competing in the next morning. The Great Bend Kiwanis Club has been sponsoring the contest since 1978. Bright and early, families arrived at the Great Bend High School auditorium to check in and to settle the butterflies in their stomachs.
Master of Ceremonies Rob Bauer, introduced judges Jean Cavanaugh, Will Rains and Jay Luerman, and gave basic instructions to the spellers. He then called each speller to the stage. Schools participating included each of Great Bend’s elementary schools, Eisenhower, Jefferson, Lincoln, Park, and Riley, Great Bend Middle School, Holy Family, Central Kansas Christian Academy, Ellinwood Grade School, Ellinwood Middle School and St. Joseph School (Ellinwood).
The contest started promptly at 10 a.m., with two practice rounds to warm spellers up. Following these rounds, participants took 10 minutes to regroup with parents and coaches before the official contest began at 10:30 a.m.
The judges indicated a speller was out by raising a red card after they completed their attempt. The student would then leave the stage quietly and take a seat in the auditorium to observe the rest of the match.
The first few rounds were uneventful, but by the fourth round students started to go out, mostly due to missing or misplaced vowels. Round five was particularly tough, with six misspellings thinning the field. Participants could request the word be repeated, a definition given, and ask it to be used in a sentence. That proved helpful more than once for some of the spellers. The pronouncer, Dr. David Hart, made every effort to provide a definition unprompted when homonyms were provided. This included words like “road” versus “rode,” and “horse” versus “hoarse.” Not every speller used that strategy, and even for some who did, it wasn’t foolproof.
For the next few rounds, one or two participants were eliminated until round nine, when those left were asked to take their seats if they misspelled, and wait to leave the stage until the end of the round.
By this time, each new word brought rapt parents to the edges of their seats, and exhalations were audible after each word was properly spelled. As more were eliminated, shoulders shrugged. Students were each given a list of words that could be asked, so there was ample time to practice, but truth be told, many a college educated scholar could have been taken down in the same manner. Mistake an “e” for an “i” or an “a,” and they too would see red at the end of the round.
Finally, by the 12th round, there were only three participants left. Then, Natalie Williams, a seventh grade student at Great Bend Middle School, and Maitland Stoskopf, a sixth grade student at Lincoln Elementary in Great Bend, were the last two on stage. They battled it out for the next seven rounds until Stoskopf was asked to spell “ballad” and spelled “balled” instead. Williams then spelled “comb” correctly, and was then given the championship word, “valley,” which she spelled correctly too. At that moment, she became the 2018 Barton County Spelling Bee champion. A wave of applause followed.
The rest of the participants were then asked to return to the stage where they were presented with participation ribbons and Williams and Stoskopf were presented trophies and a gift packet containing Great Bend Chamber of Commerce gift certificates.
Williams was excited.
“I feel great about winning because I’ve been in past spelling bees, but this time I’ve won county,” Williams said.
Her strategy is to think through the words and study. Homonyms, like carat and carrot, can be tricky. Asking to pronouncer for the definition and to use it in a sentence help clarify what the word is. “It gives me a bit of time to think, too.”
This was Maitland Stoskopf’s first chance to compete in the county bee too. Her strategy was simple.
“Try not to freak out,” she said. The night before, she typed out two lines of every word on the list too. She was a little worried as other spellers started to go out. “They tried their best, and I respect their effort.”
Both Williams and Stoskopf will advance to the Sunflower Spelling Bee on March 3, for a chance to win a spot at the Scripps National Spelling Bee near Washington D.C. at the end of May.