It took 14 rounds before a champion was crowned in the 28th annual Blooming Prairie District Spelling Bee at the Blooming Prairie Elementary School on Wednesday, Jan. 9.
Seventh grader Jaylee Schleicher won the competition in the 14th round by correctly spelling the word ARMADA. She is the daughter of Megan and Brian Schleicher.
Fighting back tears of jubilation, Schleicher said the word Armada was familiar to her since her parents own a Nissan Armada vehicle.
Armada is defined on dictionary.com as any fleet of warships. It is also defined as a large grip or force of vehicles, airplanes, etc. Schleicher advanced to the championship round by correctly spelling juniper.
Schleicher defeated eighth grader Abby Smith, who stumbled on the word RELINQUISH. Smith is the daughter of Jared and Karen Smith.
Kaiden Chicos and Ethan Marzolf tied for third place. Kaiden is the son of Steven and Miranda Chicos, and Ethan is the son of Travis and Jami Marzolf.
Twenty-four students in grades 5-8 participated in the popular contest.
The district spelling bee began in all classrooms of those in grades 5-8 where students had spelldowns to qualify to be a contestant. Sponsor of the district spelling bee is the Southeast Service Cooperative of Rochester.
Schleicher and Smith now advance to the Region Spelling Bee Contest in Rochester on Monday, Feb. 11. Winners of that contest advance to the Southeast Minnesota Spelling Bee Finals on Tuesday, Feb. 26, also in Rochester.
One winner emerges from the Feb. 26 Southeast Minnesota contest and advances to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. next May.
Jeanette Hauschildt, former elementary school secretary for 24 years, has coordinated the spelling bee in Blooming Prairie the past five years.
All students in grades 4-6 attended the contest with fourth graders eyeing a chance to enter the competition next year as fifth graders.
Judges for this year's contest were: Cathy Lightly, Jeanette Hauschildt and Roger Sorenson.
A new pronouncer, Kari Bottin, clearly announced all words and would restate the word and offer a definition if the contestant so desired.
Judy Bishop was recorder for the spelling bee and explained the rules to all contestants. She then told the students to take a deep breath and get ready to compete.
A practice round kicked off the contest with all contestants getting a chance to sample the spelling bee atmosphere.
The first round then began and was completed with only two contestants being eliminated for misspelling a word. They tripped up on guidance and eliminate.
After six rounds, only Schleicher and Smith were left in the competition.
Spelling bee contestants included:
Fifth graders -- Zoe Ehlers Allison Blume, Noah Fawver, Kaydance Verhey-Schumacher, Noah Graves, Samantha Hefling and Drew Reinke (alternate).
Sixth graders -- Jacob Pauly, Caitlyn Stangl, Madilynn Madsen, Ella Smith, Catelyn Bartlett, Bo Zwiener, Audrey Fort and Carter Bishop (alternate).
Seventh graders -- Gabe Hein, Jaylee Schleicher, Kaiden Chicos, Ty Forystek and Addison Doocy.
Eighth graders -- Madi Lea, Abby Smith, Abby Hefling, Anna Pauly, Ethan Marzolf and Grace Krejci.