‘Bee better’ is his motto; District spelling bee today is a fun, frustrating challenge

Joe Ewing will be the first to tell you he would probably rather be playing soccer than doing just about anything else.

But, the seventh grader admitted Wednesday, that when he fell out of the district spelling bee a year ago, it was — excuse the pun — like getting a bee in your bonnet.

“It was in the first round,” he emphasized.

He couldn’t recall the word that tripped him up — “something with two L’s,” he said with a bit of a groan.

While he has no idea whether he can win the bee that gets underway today at Ellis Middle School, doing better than last year is a point of pride.

“This year, I wanted to take it a little more seriously,” the 13-year-old said.

He said he relaxed in the first round and that helped him advance.

That bee, just for his grade, happened last week.

“I told myself, ‘Chill out. Whatever happens, happens,” he said. “And that seemed to work.”

Practice made a difference, too. He enlisted help from his mom, Kathy, who gave him practice words – many above grade level — during evenings at home.

He said there were “a lot of smart kids” competing, many who had attended the Pi Academy at Southgate Elementary School, a learning environment for very bright students.

One student, he said, “skipped two grade levels.”

And, he added, this spelling bee is not grade-specific at this level. The youngest students compete against the older students, he said.

Still, he knows the luck of the draw can have a lot to do with winning, too.

“I won the first round on a word that was solid, not hard at all,” he said. “I thought it would be something like ‘rhododendron,’ or something,. You just never know.”

The bee will be held beginning at 9 a.m. in the Ellis Middle School Auditorium. The first and second-place winners will advance to regional competition on Feb. 13 in Rochester.

All participants slated to spell today are:

Eighth grade — Caden Strampe, Derek Wynn, Roger Olson, Piper Kellner, Jonathan Luong. Alternate — Genesis Sanches.

Seventh grade — Joseph Ewing, Kaiah Gibson, Max Bissen, Wyatt Bunnell and Daryl Wilson-Dokpodjo . Alternate — Jory Chastain.

Sixth grade — 1st: Elayna Blust, 2nd: Adina Campbell, 3rd: Bahn Kerjiok, 4th: Eeva Nelson and 5th: Ryan Schmeichel. Alternate — Dejan Tadic.

Fifth grade — 1st: Tyler Kissling, 2nd: Ryan Capp, 3rd: Sean Marks, 4th: Carter Hovelsrud, and 5th: Matthew Simpson. Alternate— Haylie Meyer.

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