Bric-a-brac to aphasia—Madison County Spelling Bee lasts 24 rounds

“A-P-H-A-S-I-A. Aphasia.”

Chrissy Ackerman, an eighth-grader from Ennis won the Madison County Spelling Bee with the correct spelling of aphasia, which is defined as the loss of ability to understand or express speech, caused by brain damage.

The spelling bee welcomed 16 Madison County fifth through eighth-graders to the Alder Community Center on March 5 to compete for a spot to represent the county at the state competition in Billings later in the month.

Ennis, Harrison, Twin Bridges and Sheridan each sent three competitors, while the Alder school sent two and another two spellers were homeschool students. Leona Stredwick, who works for the Madison County Planning Department, was the pronouncer and Verta Dorseth from Twin Bridges, Megan Ellis from Alder and Jodie Sprout from Ennis judged the event.

The word bric-a-brac kicked off round one and the competition continued with challenging, advanced terms. By round two, only seven spellers remained in the competition and by the third round, only four were left.

When Mackenzee Fabel from Sheridan misspelled ‘congressional,’ the competition narrowed again. Heading into round four, three spellers remained—Ashleigh Guinnane from Twin Bridges, Bryce Nye also from Twin Bridges and Ackerman.

With the correct spellings of ‘gustatory’ and ‘ombudsman,’ Nye had a shot at the championship, but struggled with the word ‘porosity’ and all three spellers were back in the running.

Gluttonous. Anticipatory. Illustrious.

By round 11, only Nye and Ackerman remained, but the winner was not decided for another 13 rounds. From lingua franca to circadian, the spellers were neck and neck—both with multiple shots to win in championship rounds. Ultimately, Ackerman was able to spell ‘pyrotechnics’ and then ‘aphasia,’ clinching the title.

County Superintendent Melinda Legg organized the event, but credited her pronouncer and judges with pulling off the successful bee.

Ackerman will travel to Billings for the state bee on March 22.

Eric Nelson, eighth-grade language arts teacher at Ennis, said the fact Ackerman is a voracious reader helps her spell confidently.

“[Ackerman] placed third at the school spelling bee and moved on from there,” Nelson explained. “I passed out a sheet for the kids to study and tried to motivate them. Spelling is fun and we do a lot in the classroom so it was good for the kids to be in a bee.”

Nelson said Ackerman and her mother will head to Billings for the state competition, but before she goes, he and principal Brian Hilton are working on compiling more study materials for her.

“We’re pulling together a print out she can study from and she’s also been studying root words—Latin, Spanish and Greek—which will help her out,” he said.

Though Nelson said Ackerman was nervous at the beginning of the county bee, she loosened up toward the end and started to have fun with the competition.

“She was awesome,” he said. “There were 24 rounds—that’s a lot of pressure and the words were difficult. Then she spelled aphasia right and ended on a high note.”

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