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Bluffs Middle School student spells ‘tarragon’ to win spelling bee

March 4, 2018

SCOTTSBLUFF — Back and forth it went.

Vampire, frivolous, miracle, filibuster and the list goes on as Simran Cheema and Lucas Ellis took turns spelling different words Saturday morning.

The two were the final two of the 12 top spellers in the seventh and eighth-grade. The third place finisher Cooper McStay had taken his seat just moments earlier.

All 12 (Jenna Buck, Riley Murphy, Emily Hutton, Madison Nowlen-Lee, Lydia Travis, Haylee Harder, Simran Cheema, Lucas Ellis, Katlin VanWinkle, Alicia Gutierrez, Corina Meyers and Cooper McStay) stood on the stage at Bluffs Middle School with hopes of being the last speller standing. One-by-one, they each sat down as they misspelled a word.

Now Simran and Lucas were battling it out, neither missing a word, until Cheema missed one.

“I was so stressed,” she said afterward. “I was praying he (Ellis) would also miss it.”

Ellis missed the word. Cheema got the next one right and the battle was on again.

Then Ellis misspelled a word, but so did Cheema.

Back and forth the two students, Cheema from Bluffs Middle School and Ellis from Minatare, battled until Ellis misspelled a word and Cheema stepped to the microphone.

She spelled it out slowly, “T-A-R-R-A-G-O-N.”

“Correct,” Janet Gardner, the announcer said. “We have a winner.”

With the correct spelling Cheema became Scotts Bluff County’s top speller and will represent the county at the state Scripps Spelling Bee in Omaha on March 14.

“It was stressful,” she said afterward. “I only had a week to prepare. I studied the (spelling word) lists and remembered things from last year.”

She finished second last year, but was able to compete in Omaha because last year’s winner was unable to attend. Her first spelling bee was when she was in sixth grade.

“I didn’t win (in sixth grade),” she said.

But last year she made it to the final written test and just missed out on making it into the final round.

There were 97 students who competed in this year’s spelling bee, according to director Rebecca Shields.

At the fifth-grade level the top three spellers were: 1st, Ethan Thyne, Mitchell; 2nd, Lydia Dameron, Lincoln Elementary; 3rd, Espen Marez.

At the sixth-grade level the top three spellers were: 1st, Arsh Thanawalla, Bluffs Middle School; 2nd, Grayce Johns, Lincoln Elementary; 3rd, Mya Rupp, Lincoln Elementary.

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