Thirty-three students showed up to compete in the 51st annual Calaveras County Spelling Bee Championship on April 11 at the Calaveras River Academy/Mountain Oaks Charter School gym in San Andreas. When the orthographical examination was complete, Alexis Horlacher, a freshman at Calaveras High School, emerged as the county’s top speller. Avery Middle School seventh-grader Addy Heermance is the county’s No. 2 speller. She and Horlacher now move on to the California State Junior High Spelling Bee Championship.
Students in grades six through nine compete in the Calaveras County contest, but sixth-graders are not eligible to move on to the state event; they compete here so they get a sense of what the contest is all about. There were 15 sixth-graders in the running, spelling against six students from each of the other three grades.
Unlike the Scripps National Spelling Bee that’s covered on television, the county and state contests feature students spelling words in writing. The words are pulled from the Marin County Junior High State Spelling Word List, and contestants have 15 seconds to write them down. When a student misses his or her fourth word, they are eliminated from the competition. Balloons representing the four grade levels indicate which spellers are still active for the supportive audience of family members and friends.
Calaveras County Super-intendent of Schools Scott Nanik served as the bee’s moderator, proclaiming the words and using them in sentences. If requested, definitions are also provided to the contestants.
David Messinger, from Mark Twain Elementary School, kept spelling long after his fellow sixth-grade competitors to win first place. Gyver Crawford, from Avery Middle School (AMS), earned second place, and Sadie Hanes, also from AMS, took third place.
Heermance spelled well, outpacing the eighth-graders as she spelled her way to first place in seventh grade. Sabrina Silos, of Mountain Oaks Charter School, won second place, and Sioban Santiago, from Toyon Middle School (TMS), spelled her way to third.
Cooper Oliver, from AMS, earned first place in the eighth grade, followed by Lizzy Seely, of TMS, in second, and Winter Whittle, from the Christian Family Learning Center, in third place.
In ninth grade, Lian Tuazon, of Calaveras High, earned second place, and Bret Harte High School’s Zoe Day took home the third-place plaque.
Horlacher and Heermance are eligible to represent the county at the state bee on May 4 in San Rafael, but Heermance cannot make it to the contest because of a gymnastics competition. Horlacher competed at the state level as an eighth-grader in 2018.
As it has for many years, the Calaveras Enterprise presented $25 cash prizes to each grade level winner and additional $50 awards to Horlacher and Heermance for winning the local contest.