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Spell bound

Polson student wins ‘best speller’ title in the Lake County Spelling Bee

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After seven rounds, only two spellers remained under the lights in the Ronan Performing Arts Center last Thursday night. 

Charlo eighth-grader Timber Munson had just been eliminated when she misspelled “tragic,” and victory was close for Polson eighth-grader Cody Baer and Ronan seventh-grader Gabriel Azure, the two remaining contestants in the Lake County Spelling Bee. Surrounded by empty chairs left by their 41 fallen competitors, the boys stood quietly on stage, waiting for the next challenge from pronouncer Marilynn Tanner. Each student knew it would only take one slip of the tongue to end the standoff, and as the rounds wore on, the tension grew.

Curriculum, bruin, gazpacho, percolate — the judge held up the dreaded “incorrect” sign, and one boy held his breath as the other stepped up to the microphone. 

“Round 14. Credentials,” Tanner read.

Baer spelled the word correctly, and the pressure was on for Azure. 


The auditorium was silent as Azure concentrated for a moment, then slowly spelled the word. Another miss, and Baer was back at the plate.


He thought briefly. “M-o-n-o-t-o-n-o-u-s.” 

Judge Susan Black raised the green “correct” sign, and a relieved grin spread slowly across Baer’s face. 

“It feels great,” he said after accepting his trophy. 

His new title as Lake County Spelling Bee champion also comes with an all-expenses-paid trip to Billings for the Treasure State Spelling Bee March 27. There, he — or an alternate if Baer can’t make it — will compete against the rest of the best spellers in Montana for a spot at the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee May 23-28 in Washington, D.C.

The Lower Flathead Valley Community Foundation will cover travel expenses to Billings for the state bee, according to Kate Ike, Lake County’s deputy superintendent of schools. Each year, the group gives a travel grant for the state bee to the champion Lake County speller. Since the bee is in Billings this time, the award is $500.

“(LFVCF) has been wonderful,” Ike said.

Baer said he feels “pretty much ready” for the state bee, and won’t do much more studying than he did for last week’s bee. Most of his preparation, like many young spellers, comes from extensive reading and the fact that he learned to read at an early age, his father noted. Still, Baer admitted to being very nervous during the bee and guessing on one or two words, including “palatable.”

While students aren’t allowed to study from the official word lists for the bee, “they can study from any place they can get a word, from a dictionary or whatever,” Ike said. 

In the past, the spelling words would progressively get more difficult further into the bee, Ike said, but now the easier words are mixed in with the trickier ones.

“You just never know,” she said. “You’re just supposed to know your words.”

Ike thanked the judges and all who helped put on the bee, noting that the Ronan Performing Arts Center is the perfect venue for the spelling bee. 

“The acoustics there are wonderful,” she said.

Polson Auto Parts donated trophies for the first, second and third place winners.

Results (with round eliminated and words missed)

Gabriel Azure, Ronan, 14, curriculum, gazpacho, relevant 

Anna Young, Polson, 2, affiliation            

Tommy Mercer, Polson, 2, financier 

Presley Learn, Dayton, 1, tolerant

Sierra Lilly, Polson, 2, rutabaga      

Jacey Probst, Ronan, 5, gardenia           

Dylan Noyes, Polson, 2, larynx 

Rebecca  Whitesell, Polson, 2, conundrum 

Skyler Grove, Arlee, 2, rotisserie   

Courtney Taylor, Charlo, 2, circuitous             

Hannah Bird Rattler, Ronan, 2, calisthenics

Rhylee Burland, Ronan, 1, apology 

Bryce Cullen, Ronan, 2, photosynthesis 

Timber Munson, Charlo, 7, tragic 

Julian Couture, Ronan, 2, psychoanalysis

Kelan Couture, Ronan, 1, immature

Alex Bertollt, Arlee, 1, denominator      

Alejandro Segura, Ronan, 2, cajolery

Cierra Judd, Homeschool, 2, vengeance 

Braden Youngren, Ronan, 4, necessary

Malysa Lamphere, Polson, 2, labyrinth

Brianna Harris, Ronan, 2, latitudinarian

Carter Ostler, Charlo, 2, ineffable 

Jacob Broughton, Ronan, 6, llama

Kristin Young, Polson, 2, omniscient 

Joseph Webster-Yaqui, Ronan, 2, analgesia

Michael Kulasekera, Polson, 2, brigadier

Haley Kendley, Polson, 1, indelible

Gabrielle Wheeler, Arlee, 1, subterranean     

Maria Heutmaker, Polson, 2, fallacy

Stone Garfield, Ronan, 1, competitive

Cody Baer, Polson, bruin, percolate

Trinceton Brown, Charlo, 6, maraca 

Cherrish Olson, Polson, 1, patience

Harold Yocum, Arlee, 1, accomplice

Ryan Dresen, Ronan, 5, gorgeous      

Nicholas Durglo, St. Ignatius, 2, adieu 

Heather Bruton, MVCA, 2, paramecium

Jlee Anderson, St. Ignatius, 1, pigeon

Chris Love, Arlee, 2, periscope

Sharidan Russell, Polson, 2, cameo

Natalee Wheeler, Dayton, 1, quarantine

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