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Prairie Elementary Spelling Bee champion named

Kari Lucin/Daily Globe Teacher Hollie Hibma congratulates fifth-grader Emily Shaffer on winning the Prairie Elementary Spelling Bee Friday.

WORTHINGTON -- After 12 rounds of intense competition and a showdown with second-place winner Jordan Jensen, Emily Shaffer took top honors at the Prairie Elementary Spelling Bee Friday, correctly spelling both "energetic" and "chocolate" for the win.

"I didn't even think I'd get to third place," Shaffer said following the fifth-grade-only contest.

Shaffer's best class is spelling, and she prepared for the test by going online to check out some vocabulary words. Her father helped her practice spelling those words. As it turned out, none of them were used in the bee, but the extra work may stand Shaffer in good stead in her next round of competition -- at the Southwest Minnesota Spelling Bee in Fulda April 10.

Shaffer will be accompanied by Jensen and one of the other top 9 fifth-grade spellers in Prairie Elementary who competed in Friday's bee. They are: Liz Hayenga, Melissa Soukphilanouvong, Nathoe Vorasane, Noriden Mussa, Mary Abella, Julia Luke, Shaffer, Jensen and Lilly Hua.

The contest began with fifth grade teacher Hollie Hibma explaining the rules for the spellers.

Hibma would state the word, use it in a sentence, and then state the word again. The speller would then state the word, spell it, and then say the word again. Spellers were allowed to write the word down before they recited its letters.

The first portion of the bee was a single-elimination contest, and eliminations started in the very first round, as Vorasane faltered spelling the word "emit." In round 5, Soukphilanouvong only included one N when spelling "annual," and in round 6, Hua missed the word "standard." Luke dropped out of the competition in round 7, after spelling "bonanza" like it sounds. Both Mussa and Abella left the competition after round 9, Mussa for mixing up the last two vowels in "safeguard" and Abella for adding an extra A after the T in "banditry."

Third place speller Hayenga left out a P in "oppress" in the 12th round, ending the sudden-death portion of the competition and leaving Jensen and Shaffer to a one-on-one match. At that point, if one student missed a word, the other would need to spell that word and one additional word correctly in order to win.

Shaffer spelled "tunic" and Jensen spelled "earnest," but then Shaffer missed the word "reevaluate," and a hush came over the crowd of fifth-graders, teachers and parents, as Jensen correctly spelled the same word. But he missed the next word, "garland," and the competition resumed.

Shaffer spelled "hydroperiod" correctly, and then it was Jensen's turn to miss a word, beginning "energetic" with an I. The crowd held its breath again, and Shaffer correctly spelled "energetic" and then was tasked with spelling "chocolate." After hesitating on the second O, she correctly spelled the word in order to win the bee.

Classmates congratulated Shaffer, Jensen and all the spelling bee participants, cheering and clapping for each of them throughout the competition, all in the spirit of good sportsmanship.