The final two spellers at the North Dakota Spelling Bee on Friday battled it out for more than 10 rounds before 13-year-old Taylor Roehl of New Leipzig finally came out on top with “abbatial” and “debenture.”
Immediately after her spelling was pronounced correct, Taylor looked more relieved than excited.
Taylor beat out Noah Heuchert of St. Thomas, who placed third last year. Taylor will now head to Washington, D.C., at the end of May for the national competition.
“I feel really good,” Taylor said. “I was surprised. Those (final rounds) words were really hard.”
Last year’s winner, Ty Korsmo, placed third this year. It was his fifth — and final — year competing.
Tom Jensen, the mustachioed longtime spelling bee pronouncer, said Ty’s exit was one of the big surprises of the event.
Taylor and Noah were the last remaining spellers by round nine. For the next 12 rounds they competed with words like “tectogene,” “labyrinthine,” “boulevardier” and “equipoise.”
When both spelled correctly or incorrectly, they would move on to the next round. If only one spelled a word correctly, he or she would have to spell another “challenge word” to win.
There were 25 spellers in the oral rounds, narrowed down from 100 by a written test in the morning.
In a break from the tension in round five, one speller told Jensen she wanted to ask him a question: “How long did it take you to grow your mustache?”
In his 16 years of word pronouncing at the spelling bee, Jensen said, he had never been asked that question. He added that he had even trimmed his mustache Friday morning so the kids would be able to see his lips while he said the words.
Working with the kids, Jensen said, is really his favorite part of the spelling bee.
This year’s coordinator, Bev Nielson, agreed.
“It’s just amazing to see these kids spell these words,” she said.
Taylor Roehl, 13, of New Leipzig, is hugged by her father, Kent, after Taylor won the state spelling bee in Bismarck on Friday. "She was so calm," Roehl said. "I was having a heart attack."
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