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We're in awe of Missoula County's top S-P-E-L-L-E-R-S

Lolo Middle School fifth-grader Sam Person won the 2010 Missoula County Spelling Bee last week. MICHAEL GALLACHER/Missoulian

Lolo Middle School fifth-grader Sam Person won the 2010 Missoula County Spelling Bee last week. MICHAEL GALLACHER/Missoulian

I’m tardy in writing this note, but didn’t want February to end without congratulating the winners of the 2010 Missoula County Spelling Bee.

Lolo fifth-grader Sam Person won the county bee this year, no small feat for a first-time participant. His enthusiasm – and smile – were contagious. Runners-up were Clair Hinther, Target Range, seventh grade; and Ania Chaney, Washington Middle School, eighth grade.

Ania, by the way, is the daughter of our own Rob Chaney, a Missoulian reporter. She also worked on the staff of the Midway Dispatch, our student-produced newspaper at the Western Montana Fair, this past summer and gave her dad a real run for his money. (Just kidding, Rob!)

All three of Missoula County’s top spellers will compete at the Montana State Bee in Billings later this spring.

Also posting strong finishes at the county bee were alternates Alex Menendez, eighth grade, St. Joseph’s; Avery Boyd, fifth grade, Lewis and Clark; and Harrison Maughan, sixth grade, C.S. Porter. They’ll make the trip to the state bee if the top three can’t attend.

The Missoulian is a longtime sponsor of the county and state spelling bees, and all of us here are forever in awe of the skill shown by each year’s winners. We provide the top six spellers at the county bee with cash prizes, and all of the students with a book.

The Missoulian’s Bill Schwanke has long been the MC and pronouncer at the bee, and Lynn Schwanke – who retired from the Missoulian last year – has been the glue that kept things organized year after year.

It’s also important to note that this was the last year at the bee for Rachel Vielleux, Missoula County’s superintendent of public schools. By virtue of her elected position, she’s presided over that last 25 years’ worth of spelling bees. We thank her for that commitment to our children and our community. She will be missed, but has more than earned her retirement.

You should know that the spelling bee is our newsroom’s most dreaded assignment each year – not because reporters don’t respect the bee and enjoy writing the resulting stories. But because they do respect the bee, and know they’re almost certain to misspell a word somewhere in the resulting story!

Which, of course, is making me nervous about this blogpost, so I’d best sign off now with a final congratulations to Sam, Clair and Ania. We’ll be cheering you on at state!

Sherry Devlin

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