West Jordan • Michael Jones studied thousands of words to prep for his third appearance in the Salt Lake County Spelling Bee, but one kept haunting the seventh-grader from Indian Hills Middle School.
“On the car ride here, we were practicing ‘Frankenstein’ because it was one I was really confused on,” said Michael after correctly spelling all 17 words he faced Saturday at the Viridian Event Center. “I was glad when I heard that was my word, but I really had to focus to make sure I remembered the correct way to spell it.”
Frankenstein came in the sixth round, and with the exception of what Michael said was a “guess” on the word “astral” in the 13th round, Jones sailed to his first spelling bee title, earning a trip to Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day weekend to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Michael won by spelling the word “hedgehopper” after Ariana Babbitt, of Navigator Pointe Academy, struggled with “borough.” Stella Peters, a fifth grader from Rowland Hall-St. Marks, made it to the 15th round before bowing out for misspelling “snippet.”
Twenty-six students in the fifth through eighth grades from schools in Salt Lake County began in the first round of the spelling bee. More than half were eliminated by the fourth round. Six finalists made it through rounds eight to 11 without making a mistake.
Participation was down this year, with roughly one-third as many spellers as last year. The annual event had been in limbo until sponsors came forward in February to save it. Once sponsors were found, it left little time for schools to hold their own qualifying bees.
Utah-based Overstock.com and the law firm Hall Prangle and Schoonveld financed and organized the 2014 Salt Lake County Spelling Bee. They will pay for Jones and a parent or guardian to attend the national event in May.
“These are not just champion spellers,” Jonathan Johnson, executive vice chairman of Overstock.com, told the crowd before the event started. “They are becoming champion thinkers. We worked hard to make this happen and our thanks to the contestants who worked hard to get here.”
Johnson thanked the students’ teachers and parents before telling the contestants it was time to begin. He then spelled “begin.”
Among the first to congratulate Michael was Vismaya Kharkar, of Bountiful, last year’s winner of the Salt Lake County Spelling Bee. Vismaya finished fifth at the national spelling bee in 2013 and told Michael the trip to Washington, D.C., was a “once-in-a-lifetime” event that he would remember it forever.
Vismaya volunteered to help organizers this year with the planning and then served as a pronouncer at the spelling bee.
Michael said he is excited for the trip but isn’t sure how much studying he will do before he leaves.
“I know a lot of people will be studying a lot, but I don’t think I’ll be one of them,” he said.
Perhaps he’s counting on the flight to Washington for time to practice his Frankenstein words.
To the letter
Words from the 2014 Salt Lake County Spelling Bee held Saturday at the Viridian Event Center in West Jordan.
11 words spelled correctly
10 words misspelled