Sam Person, take another bough.
The Lolo School seventh-grader is once again champion of the Missoula County Orthography Bee after besting 50 students through 19 rounds of spelling competition, finishing with “duenna” to take the crown.
Person, who also won the title as a fifth-grader two years ago, took home the gold medal after a two-hour spell-off in Sentinel High School’s Margaret Johnson Theater on Thursday afternoon. He will be one of three students from the county bee to compete at the Treasure State Spelling Bee on March 24 in Billings.
In the last five rounds, Person successfully spelled “suave,” “enthusiasm,” “omnivorous,” “corporal” and “cacao” before completing the winning word.
Always confident every time he stepped up to the microphone, Person – the son of Thad and Jackie Person – admitted he had momentary trouble with a couple of words, including “knish,” which is a Jewish treat – a dough stuffed with filling.
“I had no idea how to spell that one,” he said.
“Duenna” – a female chaperone – took Person over the top, just edging out C.S. Porter’s Harrison Maughan, an eighth-grader who missed on “bower.” In third place was Clayton Long, a fifth-grader from Frenchtown. Those three qualify for the state spelling bee.
The No. 4 through 6 contestants will serve as alternates for the state bee. They are DeSmet seventh-grader Forrest Lester; Woodman seventh-grader Madison Ulberg, and Frenchtown eighth-grader Kaegan O’Connor.
The initial round claimed 20 contestants alone, including the first who went out on “juvenile.” After just three rounds, only 16 remained.
The students, all winners of their schools’ own spelling bees, fell on words like “scythe,” “jambalaya,” “allegory,” “chintz” and “stroganoff.” Those who remained conquered such difficult words as “colloquial,” “mercurial,” “seersucker,” “eponym” and “lithe.”
The local competition was sponsored by the Missoulian and Lee Newspapers of Montana, which owns the Missoulian and four other daily newspapers in the state.