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They’re No. 1: WMS spelling team clinches bee championship title

Worthington Middle School participants in this past weekend's spelling bee were (from left) Diego Ramos Loza, Cristy Banegas, Morgan Junker, Alex Reum, Quinn Benz and Sam Cortez. (Special to The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — The five-member Worthington Middle School (WMS) spelling team was king of Alphabet Mountain at last Saturday’s Southwest Minnesota 5th- and 6th-Grade Spelling Bee, hosted at Jackson County Central Middle School, Lakefield.

WMS teammates Morgan Junker, Sam Cortez, Diego Ramos Loza, Quinn Benz and Cristy Banegas conquered the seven other competing teams (Fulda, Edgerton, Heron Lake-Okabena, Westbrook-Walnut Grove, Hills-Beaver Creek, JCC and Windom) to finish in first place.

Two WMS competitors ranked among the top 10 overall spellers, with Cortez landing in fifth place and Benz in sixth.

Additionally, WMS alternate Alexander Reum was the first-place speller in the alternate competition.

W-WG speller Addeson Jenniges emerged as the eventual individual spelling champion and led her team to the runner-up spot behind WMS, although she battled second-place contestant Hannah Hageman of HBC through 30 back-and-forth rounds before claiming the title.

Rounding out the top five were Waylon Crooks (third place) of H-LO, Grace Anderson (fourth place) of H-BC and WMS’ Cortez (fifth).

The day began with all contestants taking pencils in hand for a 40-word written test (“ritziness,” “amulet,” “vehicular” and “parameters” made that list). An initial oral round followed, and scores from those two evaluations determined the top dozen spellers.

“Corroboration,” “irreconcilable,” “oscillation,” “miscreant” and “chartreuse” were among the words challenging students still standing during the final oral round.

“The kids were really excited when they made it on the team,” said Paula Wolyniec, who coaches the WMS spellers along with colleague Hollie Hibma. “They put their all into the competition.”

Both Hibma and Wolyniec served as correctors at the Southwest Minnesota Spelling Bee, which was coordinated by Deidre Wierson. The WMS team participants were the top spellers in the local school bee on Feb. 28.

“Our students took the competition seriously, and when the winning team was announced on Saturday, they were surprised and pleased,” Wolyniec added.

“We’re happy for their success.”