BILLINGS - With a two-time winning streak behind him, Jackson Hall gained even more momentum at Saturday’s 48th annual Treasure State Spelling Bee.
The Billings home-schooled eighth-grader battled through 17 rounds against 67 other Montana students before winning the state spelling contest held in Petro Theatre on the Montana State University Billings campus.
In Hall’s third win in a row, he sounded vowels and consonants to correctly spell eschewal— pronounced es’chuel, a noun that means to shun or avoid — and will advance to the Scripps National Bee in May. He is the son of Roger and Crisse Hall.
In the weeks leading up to the state contest, Hall swept first place in the Yellowstone Coalition of Home Educators and the Yellowstone County spelling bees.
“He has a natural ability for spelling,” Crisse Hall said. “But, he is also very dedicated with a deliberate effort to make it to the national spelling bee.”
Hall beat out Sophia Skwarchuk, an eighth-grader from Stillwater Christian School in Flathead County, and Grace Rembert, a fifth-grader from Morning Star Elementary School in Gallatin County, who tied for second place. Third place went to Sam Person, an eighth-grader from Lolo Middle School in Missoula County, and fourth place went to Kennedy Gray, an eighth-grader from Foothills Community Christian School in Cascade County.
The bee was sponsored by Lee Newspapers of Montana and coordinated by The Billings Gazette. Each competitor, in grades five through eight, won at the county level to advance to the state competition.
Tammy Johnston, this year’s bee director, said the spelling bees offer students valuable experience.
“Participants improve upon their vocabulary as well as develop poise and confidence, qualities that will be helpful throughout their lives,” Johnston said.
Before the first round, contenders had a practice round, in which wrong spellings didn’t count against the students.
Pronouncer Jaclyn Terland, a former Treasure State Spelling Bee champion, announced words to contestants once they approached the microphone to spell the word given to them from a list of 500 words. Judges included Diane Svee, Bill Kennedy and Julia Lillethun.
Hall nailed words such as mercerize, addlepated and vaccine. But, in round 16, Hall said the word “bumptiously” almost stumped him.
“It’s a word I’ll probably never forget after that,” Hall said.
In round 16, Skwarchuk misspelled equipoise, Rembert misspelled blanquette and Person misspelled aggrandizement. Kennedy was out in round 13 when he misspelled mossery.
Hall said that with his mother's guidance, he has practiced spelling for one to two hours a day since last year’s state competition, when he placed fourth.
His parents, younger brother and his grandparents were in the audience rooting him on and videotaping the three-hour event.
“Not only is he sharp, he is also a gentleman and a humble person,” his grandfather Glenn Hall said. “We are so proud of him.”
His runner-up, Rembert, said she believes Hall has a great chance of winning the national bee.
“I honestly think he can win,” Rembert said. “He has confidence and uses his resources.”
The Scripps National Spelling Bee is May 28 through May 30 in Washington D.C.
For more information, visit www.spellingbee.com.