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Dean Morgan eighth-grader wins Natrona County spelling bee for second-straight year
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Dean Morgan eighth-grader wins Natrona County spelling bee for second-straight year

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Armed with a leather jacket and a confident smile, Emma Litke spelled her way to the top of Natrona County’s spelling bee for the second consecutive year.

The Dean Morgan eighth-grader quickly powered through the winning word — skedaddle — after several hours of competition Wednesday. Litke won last year (correctly spelling “contraband”) and will now advance to the state finals. She will be joined at that event by Natrona County’s other top-five finishers: Isaac Vreeman of Centennial; his brother, Titus Vreeman; Dean Morgan’s Tyler Mailloux; and Casper Classical Academy’s Kareya Regan.

Flanked by her beaming father, Litke said afterward that she was nervous during the competition. But she didn’t look it, confidently spelling “marooned,” “tarmac,” “corgi,” “ingredient” and “boycott” ahead of the championship round.

The eighth-grader said she did little preparation for the bee, only going over words with her teacher in recent days.

Not all of the students were as calm as Litke. It was a grueling day, beginning in the morning with writing and vocabulary multiple choice. The top 25 performers then advanced to the oral part of the competition, the traditional spelling bee event where a judge reads out a word and the student must spell it back.

The field whittled down over the ensuing half-dozen rounds. Students stumbled at “savvy,” “coffee,” “abandon,” “omen.” The words grew progressively harder as the competition wore on, with students successfully navigating the murky waters of “pilferer,” “deodorant,” “flabbergast” and “fabulist.” (No comment on whether this reporter had to feverishly cross out his own spellings of some of the latter-stage words.)

As the field narrowed, some spellers went to their parents with tears in their eyes while others ran for high-fives. One competitor, looking smart in a vest and tie, stumbled over “calzone.” As he tried to piece together the letters to spell the Italian word for a fancy Hot Pocket, he despaired and said he didn’t know.

“It’s OK, we’re proud of you,” the presenter said as the room applauded the student.

Mailloux, the Dean Morgan student who placed fourth, wore his emotions plainly on his face, which showed relief in its purest form after he successfully spelled “extinguish” to lock up his top-five finish.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a competition without a splash of drama. Mailloux and Regan, who placed fifth, both fell from the top three after back-to-back misspellings (“graham” and “firmament”). Mailloux spelled “extinguish,” placing him in fourth. But because of some confusion, he was placed back into the running for first place. After some heated discussion at the back of the room, the issue was cleared up, and the two students were given fourth and fifth place.

Drama now dispatched, Litke — the leather jacket-wearing, firm hand-shaking, tough-word-spelling eighth-grader — punched through the championship round and climbed atop the Mount Everest of central Wyoming spelling competitions yet again.

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Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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