Wrapped in gingham: Spelling bee determines winner after 12 rounds


February 12, 2019

Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

Sunnyside fifth-grader Sophia Purkett grows wide-eyed Monday as she is told she's won the Hill County Spelling Bee at Havre Middle School. After spelling the word "gingham," she was briefly told she was incorrect before the statement was reversed, making Purkett the champion.

The 53rd annual Hill County Spelling Bee went 12 rounds to finally determine a winner Monday morning inside the Havre Middle School Auditorium.

Fifth-grader Sophia Purkett from Sunnyside Intermediate School was pronounced the winner after she and Allie Messinger, an eighth-grader from Havre Middle School, and Colton Spicher, an eighth-grader from North Star School, had to play additional rounds because they all either misspelled their words or all spelled them correctly.

Purkett, after Messinger and Spicher were eliminated, correctly spelled "gingham" to earn the victory.

Purkett said the competition was difficult and the one word she used to describe her victory was, "Wow."

Kati Purkett, Sophia's mother, said she was proud of her daughter.

"We're super-excited," Purkett added. "It's quite an honor to be a fifth-grader and going to the spelling bee in Billings."

"I knew she could do it," Patty DeRosa, Sophia's grandmother, said. "I told her she could. She reads constantly which really helps with spelling."

Next, Sophia will travel to Billings to compete in the Treasure State Spelling Bee March 16 on the Rocky Mountain College campus.

Hill County Superintendent of Schools Maureen Stott said the 12-round contest this year was the longest spelling bee to date. She added that it is extremely rare for a fifth-grader to win at this level and she was impressed with Sophia.

"This was a very good spelling bee, it was a really good one," Stott added.

She said it wasn't about grade level, but more about skill. She added that kids who tend to read a lot have higher skills in spelling, and she could see that Sophia was processing each word she was given.

Allie Messinger took third and was eliminated for misspelling "pentathlon."

Colton Spicher took second place and was eliminated after he misspelled "nemesis."

Along with trophies, Colton and Allie were awarded $75 gift cards and Sophia received a $100 gift card donated by Bear Paw Credit Union.

The spelling bee was set to start at 9 a.m. Monday but was delayed due to a bus from Box Elder having difficulty coming into Havre due to the weather. After a few minutes the bus arrived and the competition began.

Stott told the students a practice round would be held before the actual competition started.

"How many of you would like a practice round," she added.

Hands from all 68 competitors went up.

After practice, the bee started. At the end of the first round, almost half the competitors were eliminated. Thirty-five competitors remained at the start of the second round and that round eliminated 16.

The field was reduced to nine after the end of the third round. Three competitors were subsequently eliminated at the close of rounds four and five.

Round six began with the three finalists and Stott said the rules of the spelling bee state that if all competitors misspell or correctly spell their words, the rounds continue until third, second and first place are determined.

All three competitors spelled their words correctly in round six. In rounds seven and eight they all misspelled their words. In round nine, Allie was the only one to misspell her word. Sophia and Colton advanced to round 10, where they both misspelled their words.

Round 11 is when Spicher misspelled his word after Sophia correctly spelled "regime." Stott said the rules state that Sophia had to do one round on her own and spell the word correctly to be the champion. In round 12, Sophia correctly spelled her word - "gingham" - and won the Hill County Spelling Bee.

Stott said she was really appreciative of all the school districts that helped out this year. She added that she couldn't have done it without Rocky Boy, Box Elder and North Star supplying coaches and Jacqueline Hanson for being pronouncer.

"It's really hard to find people to do this," Stott said. "In fact, last minute, I would be begging people to do it."

This year, Stott said she asked the school districts to supply judges for the spelling bee and Rocky Boy gave her three.

She added that she was thankful for Dee Dee Jennings and the sign-in helpers for their assistance. Stott said she was grateful to the spectators who braved the sub-zero temperatures and came out to support their children and the other students.

Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

Dylon Melby, an eighth-grader from North Star Schools, spells a word during the first round of the 53rd Annual Hill County Spelling Bee Monday at Havre Middle School.


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