Lexington Trails spells competition for area students
This year's winner of the Johnson County Spelling Bee found the competition a little less then spellbinding.
"We were bored with really nothing to do most of the time," said Anna Feyerherm, a sixth-grader at Shawnee Mission school district's Mill Creek Elementary. "I was nervous at first to get up, but once I realized the words weren't that hard I got excited."
Students from Johnson County public and private schools competed Friday for the title of Johnson County Spelling Bee Champion at Lexington Trails Middle School. After 10 rounds of competition that spanned five hours, Feyerherm walked away as the winner, having vanquished 129 rivals.
The gymnasium bleachers inside Lexington Trails began the day filled with parents from across the county but slowly emptied as students were eliminated. Students stepped up to the microphone in front of De Soto USD 232 Curriculum Director Doug Powers to see what word awaited them.
Marilyn Layman, who retired as De Soto superintendent last summer, provided students with what little relief she could by serving up word definitions, origins, pronunciations, and proper usages in sentences. Whispers of relief were displayed within the crowd after each successful attempt.
After making it through "ultimatum," eighth-grader Alex Gum of California Trail Junior High School in Olathe, continued what was becoming his trademark self-congratulatory fist pumps, as he grinned at his family of supporters sitting in the last row of bleachers atop the gymnasium.
Gum stumbled in round eight on the word "yeomen." Minutes later, the competition was trimmed to two.
"I was just happy to have made it to the final two," Feyerherm said. "I knew I was going to get to take a trophy home either way."
Feyerherm and eighth-grader Trevor Bond, of Pioneer Trail Junior High School in Olathe, were the lone survivors after 10 rounds. The two squared off to see who would take home the coveted first-place trophy.
After Bond missed on the word "umbrage," Feyerherm stepped up to the microphone and spelled it correctly. As the clock passed 2 p.m., all that was left was for Feyerherm to spell the next word correctly and bring a close to the competition that had gotten underway at 9 a.m.
"The word was 'tacitly,' and right when they said it I knew what it was," Feyerherm said. "It had been one of our words in a spelling unit at school this year."
Bond, the runner-up, was excited to have netted a top placing as a first-time participant. Having never heard of many of the words, Bond said he felt fortunate to have advanced so far after taking educated guesses at words such as "passel."
"With so many people here, it's just fun to make it this far," Bond said. "I was very nervous at the microphone. I didn't know what to expect from the judges."
Before the afternoon lunch break, five of the six participants from the De Soto district had been eliminated. Eric Schuman, an eighth-grader from Monticello Trails Middle School, pushed through into the late rounds as the lone De Soto representative. After finishing in the top five at last year's event, Schuman was disappointed to miss cracking a spot in the finals.
"It's very competitive out there," Schuman said. "I should have studied a lot more. I'm just glad I was out there and able to represent De Soto. I hope to do Quiz Bowl next year and keep doing these things."
The De Soto district sent to the event students as young as third-graders Sophia Templin from Starside Elementary School and Bailee Walk of Riverview Elementary School. Other district students participating were Clear Creek Elementary School fifth-grader Paige Knight; Lexington Trails Middle School seventh-grader Jenna Hodges; and Mize Elementary School fifth-grader Ryan Scott.
County winners will compete March 27 in the Kansas State Spelling Bee in Topeka. The winner from each state will advance to the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in June in Washington, D.C.
"This time I am going to have to study a lot more," Feyerherm said. "I'm excited to be going, but I think