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Superlative spellers: WMS 5/6 grade spelling bee occurs

These students excelled at the WMS 5th/6th grade Spelling Bee on Wednesday. From left (in order of their finish), are: Morgan Junker (first place); Samantha Cortez (second place); Diego Ramos Loza (third place); Caden Van Briesen (fourth place); Quinn Benz (fifth place); and Isaac Kinser (alternate). (Special to The Globe)1 / 2
WMS students competing in the 5th/6th grade Spelling Bee last Wednesday included (from left) Cristy Banegas, Quinn Benz, Samantha Cortez, Morgan Junker, Isaac Kinser, Mykayla Phouangphet, Diego Ramos Loza, Alexander Reum, Fidel Sorto and Caden Van Briesen. (Special to The Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — Ten outstanding young spellers put their brains to work on Wednesday during the annual Worthington Middle School 5th/6th Grade Spelling Bee.

“You are the top spellers out of 450 students in the fifth and sixth grades here, so you should all feel good about yourselves,” exhorted Hollie Hibma, a WMS fifth-grade teacher and co-coordinator of the bee with WMS colleague Paula Wolyniec.

To make it to Wednesday’s oral spell-down, the participating students had already conquered dozens of words. They were initially among the highest-scoring 26 students on a written spelling test, and a second-round written test then narrowed the list of competitors to 11 (one student, Ye Khing, was ill on competition day).

Sixth-grader Morgan Junker, who was a spelling bee participant last year but didn’t make it into the final rounds in 2017, was on a mission to redeem herself.

She did so in fine fashion, not misspelling a single word in over 10 rounds of competition and ultimately clinching first place with her correct spellings of “altogether” and “carnival” in the final round against last year’s champion, fellow sixth-grader Samantha Cortez.

“My mom was here last year and that made me nervous,” Junker smiled.

Although Cortez was disappointed that her bobble of “laborious” (she spelled it without the “u”) landed her in the first runner-up slot, she has another chance ahead to prove her spelling prowess.

Junker, Cortez and the next four finishers (third-place speller Diego Ramos Loza, fourth-place speller Kaden Van Briesen, fifth-place speller Quinn Benz and alternate Isaac Kinser) will all test their mettle against their peers from nine other area schools at the Southwest Minnesota Spelling Bee in Lakefield on April 14.

“It’s a lot of fun for the students to compete at that regional meet, and our spellers have usually done very well there,” said Wolyniec.

Wolyniec and Hibma will hold a few practice sessions during March for the WMS spelling team, but it’s the students’ regular habits of reading and academic preparation that likely assist them the most in their competitive spelling efforts.

For instance, Junker said she loves reading “all kinds of chapter books,” mentioning Erin Hunter’s “Warriors” series as a particular favorite, while Cortez is currently deep into the Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket series.

Other contestants, all of whom gamely tackled words (including the tricky “marshmallow,” “prism,” “ingredient” and “midriff”) chosen from the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee list, were Cristy Banegas, Mykayla Phouangphet, Alexander Reum and Fidel Sorto.

It was the first spelling bee for sixth-grader Banegas, who also said she likes reading and found the contest to be motivational.

“I would do it again,” she affirmed.

Each contestant received a hard-bound copy of the American Student Dictionary for grades 6–10, assuring that these young scholars will have an excellent resource at the ready for their spelling studies in the months ahead.

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