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Spelling Bee honors go to Windom students

After a mighty battle, Joseph Arends of Windom comes up with the correct spelling of "exasperate" to win the 2010 Southwest Minnesota Spelling Bee. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)1 / 2
The oral spelldown participants listen as MCC's Adam Martin correctly spells "controversial." Left to right, Megan Bennett, Millie Piper, Harielle Hermia, Martin and Joseph Arends. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)2 / 2

FULDA -- The morning was a bit cool, but the action inside was hot and heavy.

More than 35 students grade five and six from seven schools converged at the Fulda Elementary School Saturday morning to participate in the 2010 Southwest Minnesota Spelling Bee.

From Edgerton, Fulda, Hills-Beaver Creek, Murray County Central, Southwest Star Concept, Windom and Worthington, each student brought his or her A game to the bee, first tackling a written round that narrowed the competition down to 12.

Next came the oral round, when each of the 12 students was asked to spell the same five words while the others were stashed out of listening range.

One by one, each was given a shot at spelling tyranny, inferior, physician, inconvenience and vengeance. Only one student, Harielle Hermia of Murray County Central (MCC), got all five correct.

She and four others entered the final oral spelldown -- Adam Martin, also of MCC, Millie Piper of Fulda, and Megan Bennett and Joseph Arends of Windom.

Piper was knocked out in round two by "exaggeration," Hermia went down in round three with "souvenir" and then things got crazy. The remaining three each got their words wrong in the next round as the words got more complex and complicated. Arends was the only one who survived round five, which started a round-robin of words and spelling for Bennett and Martin, vying for the right to go head-to-head with Arends.

The spelling intensified, with Martin falling under the weight of "forfeit."

And then there were two.

The two Windom students battled valiantly, with words such as Fahrenheit, masquerade and aerodynamic tossed into the fray. According to oral spelldown rules, the winning student had to spell two words in a row correctly to be name champion speller, something both students struggled with. Hypochondriac and laryngitis tripped them up, and the list of words reserved for the bee was whittled down to nothing.

The spelldown came to a stop momentarily so more words could be gathered, but when the action commenced, Bennett tripped over hydrogen and Arends swooped in with correct spellings of impersonator and exasperate to take the first place trophy.

According to MCC veteran spelling coach Mark Schleisman, who has run the bee gauntlet for more than 20 years, the best practice for such an event involves learning word origin and phonics, but a love of reading is a great asset also.

"But when it comes down to it, some people just have a natural knack for spelling," Schleisman stated.

In the end, Arends took first place and Bennett took second. Both are from Windom. Martin and Hermia, both of MCC, took third and fourth place, and Piper of Fulda came in fifth place. In team awards, MCC came in first and Windom second.