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Broadview School sixth-grader wins county spelling bee

March 5, 2017 GMT

Broadview School sixth-grader Cody Korenko is a spelling whiz.

Barely breaking a sweat, Cody spelled 12 words in 11 rounds Saturday to be named the champion of the 2017 Yellowstone County Spelling Bee. Not even the words “vivisection” and “acronym” could trip him up on his way to wrapping up the contest with “corporal” for the win.

Sixty-four students in grades five through eight took part in the bee held in the Skyview High auditorium. Thirty-five public, private and home schools were represented.

The students, known on stage only by the numbers they wore, sat in rows of chairs on the stage. All were poised as they stood and waited in line for their turn to step up to the microphone and spell their given word.

Second place went to Miguel Holloway, a sixth-grader at Newman Elementary School. He only missed one word in the contest that lasted slightly more than two hours.

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Cody and Miguel will go on to the March 18 Treasure State Spelling Bee at Rocky Mountain College. They will be joined by third-place speller Seager Nentwig, an eighth-grader from Lewis & Clark Middle School, and Emily Sealey, a sixth-grader at Independent School.

Initially judges ruled that Emily had misspelled “venerable” in the first round. But the decision was appealed, and when judges Brenda Koch, Jamie Swan and Vanessa Lunda listened to a recording, they agreed she had gotten the word right.

The winner of the state bee advances to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is slated for May 28-June 4 in Washington, D.C.

Mark Wilson and Paul Mushaben, hosts of the Breakfast Flakes show on Cat Country 102.9, once again acted as emcees at the event. They sought to put the students and the audience at ease before the event got underway.

The bee started with a practice round, where all of the students got a chance to spell a word with no penalty for a wrong spelling. The first round, which included challenging words like “laburnums” and “Dantean,” knocked out nearly half of the contestants.

By the end of the third round, only 15 contestants were left. That number shrunk to nine after round five, four by the end of round seven and, finally, two at the end of round 10.

At the start of the 11th round, Cody correctly spelled “fennel” and Miguel left a “z” out of piazza. When Cody then spelled corporal, he was declared the winner.

Cody, who looked stunned when he won, said later that winning “felt amazing.”

“I felt blown away by the whole thing,” he said, clasping his first-place trophy in his hands. “I expected to just get out in the first round like I did last time, but instead I came in first place.”

It probably helps that his three favorite subjects in school are reading, writing and spelling.

“I love reading, I love writing stories,” he said.

Cody figures he’ll spend the next two weeks “studying like crazy.”

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Kurt Korenko, Cody’s father, admitted he was still shaking slightly after the bee ended. But he was pleased for his son.

“He works hard and he studies hard and it’s just a great accomplishment for him,” Korenko said, praising all of the students who participated.

Cody’s mom, Cassie O’Neill, agreed with Korenko that sitting in the audience, watching Cody wasn’t easy.

“It’s pretty nerve-wracking being out there, biting your fingernails just waiting,” she said. “I think the first round he was a little shaken, but he kind of got into the groove and he did great.”

At the start of the bee, students were instructed by pronouncer Jaclyn Terland that they could ask her to repeat their word, ask for an alternative pronunciation if one was provided, ask for the word’s origin, its definition and for it to be used in a sentence.

Parents and teachers also were invited to file an appeal after a round if they felt their student’s or child’s spelling of a word was mistakenly ruled wrong. Several parents took advantage of the process, but only Emily was reinstated.

Afterward, judge Vanessa Lund said she thinks the confusion came in because parents are used to hearing a word spoken a certain way.

“We have to use the Webster’s Third New International Dictionary’s primary pronunciation, and then it’s up to the kids to ask for alternate pronunciations,” Lund said.

Asking for the alternative spelling is a skill the students should employ, Terland agreed. Otherwise they handicap themselves when they launch into spelling.

“Often kids hear it and they think they know the word because it sounds like something else,” she said. “And they spell it based on the pronunciation that may not give them the most information.”