Custer student winner at USD Scripps National Spelling Bee

(From left) Max Oesterling was first-place winner of the oral competition at the University of South Dakota Scripps Spelling Bee Saturday, followed by Lexis Sherron and Adele Benoit. (Travis Gulbrandson/Vermillion Plain Talk)

(From left) Max Oesterling was first-place winner of the oral competition at the University of South Dakota Scripps Spelling Bee Saturday, followed by Lexis Sherron and Adele Benoit.
(Travis Gulbrandson/Vermillion Plain Talk)

By Travis Gulbrandson

travis.gulbrandson@plaintalk.net

It took 38 rounds, but a winner was declared at the University of South Dakota Scripps Spelling Bee Saturday morning.

Max Oesterling, a Custer eighth-grader representing the South Dakota Christian Home School Association won the oral bee, correctly spelling “pronouncement” in the championship round.

Lexis Sherron of Brandon Valley won second place, with Adele Benoit of Yankton’s Sacred Heart School taking third.

This is a return for both Oesterling and Sherron, both of whom competed in last year’s bee.

“I’m happy with how I did,” Sherron said.

Oesterling agreed, adding, “It’s just God who chooses who wins or not.”

Following his win in Vermillion, Oesterling will head to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will be held in Washington, DC, May 26-31.

Benoit, a seventh-grader, said she plans to try and make the contest again next year.

“Just being here now is really awesome,” she said.

In addition to the oral bee, a written test also was held, the winners of which were Sherron with third place, Oesterling with second and Maria Braga-Henebry of the Greater Sioux Falls Home School Association with first.

“For the written test, we randomly chose 50 words from the guide we get from Scripps,” said program assistant Cheryl Havermann. “The written test did not eliminate anyone from the oral bee, but it did have its own award placings.

“If the contestant makes it to the national level, there are three rounds of written tests that do eliminate the contestant from the competition. So, it’s good practice for the contestant to have a written test,” Havermann said.

Eleven students competed Saturday, all of whom were culled from regional bees held across the state.

“This spelling bee is a bridge between the regional spelling bee level and the national level,” said master of ceremonies Nicholas Tifft. “Success in school-level spelling bees is usually tied to memorization of a list of several hundred words. Success at the national bee is all about application of language concepts and patterns to correctly spell any of the 472,000 words from the dictionary.”

These concepts became more important to the spellers as the competition drew to a close and the words became more complicated.

The students were given the word and heard it used in a sentence, after which point the word was repeated. They also had the option of asking for a definition, the word’s place or origin and alternate pronunciations.

“When your moment arrives, just do like the pros do in D.C.,” Tifft said before the spelling began. “Slow down, ask questions, think positively and you will be ready to meet the challenge.”

This was the second year the spelling bee was held at USD, and the first time it took place in Farber Hall.

“We were contacted kind of late last year because the prior sponsor was no longer sponsoring,” Havermann said. “Scripps approached us, and it was just a natural fit … so we took on the role.

“Last year, we had a few bugs because it was our first year, but this year, I think it went very well,” she said. “We have lots of volunteers from the university community. Having it in Farber Hall has worked out really well. It’s convenient and it’s a really nice venue.”

Other participants in Saturday’s spelling bee were Emily Fox, Genesis Reynolds, Whitney Fuerst, Luke Norby, Maddy Gillett, Connor Lightfield and Carolyn Blaha.

Judges were Marie Anne Ben, Megan Olson and Joni Freidel, and word pronouncer was Tom Sorensen, associate dean of the USD School of Law.

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