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Local top spellers face off at county bee in Prescott Valley

BBNPhotos/Heidi Dahms Foster

BBNPhotos/Heidi Dahms Foster

Three local studendents won the right to compete this year in the 64th Annual Yavapai County Spelling Bee by winning their school bees. They joined 49 other top spellers on Wednesday, Feb. 17 in Prescott Valley to spell off for the top spot in the county.

Bria Welch, a 14-year-old eighth-grader from Cañon Elementary in Black Canyon City, Aislyn Hicks, 12, a seventh- grader from Crown King School, and alternate Crystal Peterson, 9, a Mayer Elementary fourth-grader standing in for 10-year-old Nick Larson, grade 5, participated in the bee.

Peterson did her best, but the word "gazelle" took her out in round 1, and Hicks misspelled "souvenir."

Welch made it through "mahi mahi" in round 1, but missed "Panzer" in round 2.

Yavapai County School Supt. Tim Carter reminded all of the 52 spellers that they were champions before they arrived to compete Wednesday, and the audience agreed with their applause throughout the bee.

Thirteen-year-old Michela Hardin was the picture of calm each time she stepped up to the microphone.

Hardin, a Prescott Valley Liberty Traditional School seventh- grader, said before the bee that she wanted to remember to slow down and take a deep breath before she spelled each word. She did just that through the first four rounds with such words as "foyer," "caribou," "meticulous," and "amicable."

The words were difficult, and one after another, nervous spellers from grades three through eight stumbled over their words.

By round 5, only Hardin, Sofia Ruster-Villa, 13, a Prescott Mile High Middle School eighth- grader, Miranda Racine, 10, a Chino Valley Del Rio Elementary School fifth-grader, and Daxton Bryce, 10, a fifth- grader from Abia Judd Elementary School in Prescott, remained on stage.

The four quickly sorted out the top spots. Bryce went down on "eclectic." Racine then misspelled "belfry." Harden correctly spelled "azure," and Ruster-Villa hit it right on with "parapet."

National rules dictated that the two fifth- graders spell off for third and fourth places. They went three rounds on such words as "tarragon," "bowery," "patina," and "springbok," until Bryce correctly spelled "ghoul," and Racine missed "bellicose." Bryce then had to correctly spell "pronounceable," to cement his third place.

Now it was time for the two 13-year-olds to see who would be the 2010 Yavapai County Spelling Bee champion. It only took one round. Hardin correctly spelled "allegro," and Ruster-Villa misspelled "diphthong."

Hardin stepped up and spelled "impetuous" for the win. She then covered her face with her hands as the realization that she was the champion hit her. Calm fled, and she jumped up and down, grinning, and excitedly declaring, "I'm going to state!"

Hardin received a $500 savings bond for her win from major sponsors M&I Bank in Prescott Valley. Vice Pres. Bob Sebring presented the top four winners with awards from the bank. Hardin will advance to the Arizona State Spelling Bee on Saturday, March 27, at Arizona State University.

JoLynne Richter, who has pronounced for the bee for more than 20 years, as usual brought her own brand of humor to ease the kids' nerves and bring a few laughs from the audience. She took a few jabs at modern technology, reminding the youths that "what you do when you text is NOT spelling!"

Fifty-two schools in Yavapai County, including public, charter, private and home school groups sent their school champions to the bee.

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