Regional Spelling Bee held

HOUGHTON – It took anywhere from 13 to 45 rounds, but eight Copper Country spellers are going to the Upper Peninsula Finals.

The Copper Country Regional Spelling Bee was held Monday at Houghton Middle School. Advancing are: fifth-graders Ada McDonald and Brannon Torola of the Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw; sixth-graders Lana Alaraje and Lily Ashburn of Houghton-Portage Township Schools; seventh-graders Isabel Valencia of Houghton and Hayley Mattfolk from Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Schools; and eighth-graders Shannon Nulf of Hancock Public Schools and Daria Saari of Dollar Bay.

Fifth- and sixth-graders hit the stump list in the 10th round. The fifth-grade bee ended in the 13th round, as McDonald spelled “chronology” and “blithe” to win. In a rule change adopted by the national bee this year, a speller with a chance to clinch now spells two new words after a miss from the second competitor. Previously, the speller would be given a chance to spell the word the previous person missed before getting another word.

McDonald was happy to win.

“I didn’t really know if I could spell ‘blithe,'” she said. “The only reason I could spell it is because I read it in a book once.”

The sixth-graders went even longer, as Alaraje spelled “achievement” and “saucer” in the 21st round.

Alaraje said she had been worried throughout the bee, but that it was great to win. Like McDonald, she plans to study every day for the U.P. Finals.

“First I write them down at least once, then I have my parents test me on them every day,” she said.

The seventh- and eighth-graders hit the stump list in the middle of the 14th round. Determining the winners would take many more.

The older spellers hit multiple long grooves, including spelling 50 straight words correctly between the sixth and 10th rounds.

In the seventh grade, Valencia won in the 25th round, correctly spelling “gargoyle” and “pylon.”

Valencia called the bee “fun.” She plans to go through the list and practice the words.

“I’ll look them all up and repeat them until I know them intuitively,” she said.

After the seventh grade ended, Nulf and Saari kept at it. In the 45th round, on the fourth and final clinching opportunity of the eighth-grade bee, Nulf spelled “mobilize” and “tragedy” for the win.

“I was trying not to focus too much on spelling the words – that’s a weakness of mine, I focus too much,” Nulf said. “I was just trying to tell myself to keep calm and have fun.”

Nulf said she planned to go over the words every night with her mother. It was one of several trips to the regional bee for Nulf, who has stayed in the bee progressively longer each time.

“I expected to go farther, but I didn’t expect to win,” she said.

The U.P. Finals will be held March 13 at Westwood High School in Ishpeming and Negaunee High School in Negaunee.