First time’s the charm for winning speller

SCMS student spells a type of cheese correctly to win bee
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Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Anna Etten, a sixth-grade student at Shawano Community Middle School, looks toward the judges as she spells a word in the first round of the Shawano School District’s spelling bee on Wednesday. After more than hour, Etten was victorious after spelling “stilton” correctly.

Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski The remaining 20 contestants return to their seats after a short break during Wednesday’s district spelling bee at Shawano Community Middle School. About 40 students competed in the annual event; 46 students in grades 4-8 were eligible.

Anna Etten showed few signs that she didn’t know how to spell a word as she coasted to victory in the Shawano School District’s annual spelling bee on Wednesday.

Etten, who is in sixth grade at Shawano Community Middle School, was competing for the first time in the spelling bee, which included almost 40 students from the middle school and Olga Brener Intermediate School.

Her winning word was stilton, a type of English cheese — almost poetic for a student living in the heart of the dairy state.

Etten will go on to compete at the regional spelling bee at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 15 at Bonduel High School. The winner of that contest will compete in the state bee March 25 in Madison.

Etten said it felt good to win, even though she was surprised about the word she received at the end.

“I was just guessing,” Etten said. “I did quite a bit of studying — about five or six hours or so.”

While Etten spelled stilton with relative ease, other contestants were tripped up by some of the hundreds of words doled out at the bee.

There was disbelief when “belief” was misspelled, but one contestant was able to put the pieces together to spell “puzzles.” Another contestant couldn’t count on her “compatriots” to help her spell the word correctly, and forgetting the g in “gnarled” spelled doom for yet another contestant.

One contestant had a hard time wrapping his head around the word “pauper,” repeating the word several times before spelling it “popper.” Fortunately, another contestant was able to spell “failure” without fail.

Despite a missing letter here and transposed letters there, this year’s contestants impressed Chad Collier, the district’s spelling bee coordinator.

“They had a lot of responsibility, and it was a very good competition — very tense,” Collier said.

Collier, a math coach at SCMS, said he was proud of Etten’s performance.

“For a student to come in for the first time and do this well, she will represent this school and this district proudly,” Collier said.

It would not be unheard of for Etten to do well beyond the district bee, as Shawano had a student go all the way to the national spelling bee in 2014. Karelyn Malliet won the Badger State Spelling Bee when she was in seventh grade and made it back to the state bee as an eighth-grader, the last year she could compete, but the word “maleta” tripped her up and put her in fourth place.