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Last three standing

Spelling champions awarded

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RONAN – Charlo Middle School eighth-grader August Hertz was all business on the stage in front of a panel of judges on Tuesday evening during the 55th annual Lake County Spelling Bee at the Ronan Performing Arts Center.

Hertz clearly and deliberately pronounced each letter of the word “buffoonery” into a microphone to secure the title of Lake County’s top speller. He outlasted 38 of the top fourth-through eighth-grade spellers representing eight Mission Valley area schools who all qualified for the county bee during preliminary spelling contests at each of their schools.

Spelling bee director and Lake County Superintendent of Schools Carolyn Hall organized the bee. After settling in and situating the student spellers on stage, Hall welcomed the audience of family and friends.

She stressed the relevance and importance of correct word usage and knowing how to spell correctly during her speech. “We have a language that’s kind of complicated,” said Hall. “When sitting down to write something important like a resume or just presenting yourself on paper, spelling matters. You want to spell things correctly.”

In last year’s spelling bee, it required 22 rounds to name the eventual winner. This year’s contest took just ten rounds to declare Hertz the spelling bee champion. Round one was particularly brutal on the spellers as nearly half of the field was eliminated from competition. For the next six rounds, other students were slowly dismissed on words such as “rabble-rouser,” “palindrome,” “scoundrel” and “sojourner.”

In the end, Hertz battled Ronan seventh-grader Jayceon Cutfinger, who was the second-place winner, and Glacier Lake sixth-grader Marina Kestner Pavlock, third-place winner. Kestner Pavlock stumbled on the word “gauntlet” in round nine, while Cutfinger fell to the word “vacuum” in the tenth and final round. Hertz won with “buffoonery” after conquering “calico” and “marsupial” in the final rounds.

Hertz said his family helped him prepare for the contest. “We printed out the word list and I studied that for a couple nights,” said Hertz. “My parents would read out the word. I would spell it and they would tell me if it was right or wrong.”

Both Hertz and Cutfinger will now advance and join 70 of the best spellers from across the state in competition at the 55th Annual Treasure State Spelling Bee on Saturday, March 14, at the Strand Union Building on the Montana State University campus in Bozeman. The winner of that spelling bee will have the opportunity to compete in the Scripp’s National Spelling Bee in Maryland from May 24 to May 29.

Costs associated with travel to the state competition were covered by a donation from the Lower Flathead Valley Community Foundation. Ronan Auto Parts helped with trophy expenses for the Lake County event. John Lyons served as the spelling bee’s word pronouncer. Gale Decker, Paula Holle and Leigh Estvold participated as this year’s judges. 


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