Johnson County Student Heads to Washington, D.C., as Wyoming's Top Speller
"Metamorphosis" is Taylor Ballek's ticket to represent Wyoming at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., later this year.
Ballek, a 13-year-old eighth grader from Clear Creek Middle School in Johnson County, bested 44 spellers from 16 counties by making no mistakes in the 100-word written preliminary round, and making no mistakes in 21 rounds of oral competition.
To reach the state bee Saturday, spellers had to first compete in county spelling bees.
Ballek, who fit her spelling preparation in between volleyball, swimming, diving, basketball, track and school work, says she followed the provided study materials. She returned to the bee after placing fifth last year.
Drama emerged in the middle of the oral rounds when Ballek, Lia Eggleston, from Snowy Range Academy in Albany County and Callie Pearson, from Southeast Junior High in Goshen County, found themselves in a three-way competition to determine who would win the bee.
Pearson missed "azimuth" in the 15th round, leaving Eggleston and Ballek to spell through five more rounds. Eggleston missed "anomaly," and Ballek successfully spelled "issei" to complete that round and "metamorphosis" in the championship round.
Ballek's mother, Joni Ballek, says she's seen her daughter become a better and more mature speller in her years at the bee. And Ballek comes by her spelling talent naturally; her mother was district champion and her grandmother is also a very strong speller.
Ballek now goes on to compete with top spellers from across the country in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, June 2-4.
"We're really pleased to be hosting an event like this," Sara Axelson, UW vice president for student affairs, says. "We had an excellent turnout. I really admire the students' commitment, as well as the commitment of their parents and educators from their communities to make this event happen."
The Wyoming State Spelling Bee was sponsored by the AARP National Spelling Bee and hosted by the University of Wyoming. The Wyoming Education Association, the Albany County Tourism Board and the Fairfield Inn in Laramie, and Merriam-Webster also supported the bee.
Concluding her year as Wyoming State Spelling Bee champion, Sage Weber along with her parents, Bill and Colleen Weber, volunteered at the bee as well.
Here's the list of spellers who competed in the oral rounds, in the order in which they placed:
Taylor Ballek, Johnson County, first.
Lia Eggleston, Albany County, second.
Callie Pearson, Goshen County, third.
Kari Batey, Laramie County, fourth - tie.
Molly Creagar, Goshen County, fourth - tie.
Taylor Hill, Johnson County, sixth.
Connor Jones, Big Horn County, seventh - tie.
Robbie Coulter, Fremont County, seventh - tie.
Lanie Wallowing Bull, Laramie County, seventh - tie.
Jacob Zaragoza, Lincoln County, 10th - tie.
Daniel Mulkey, Sweetwater County, 10th - tie.
Sylvia Fonfara, Albany County, 12th - tie.
Haley Powell, Sweetwater, 12th - tie.
Conor McCracken-Flesher, Albany County, 12th - tie.
Mckenzie Murray, Sheridan County, 12th - tie.
Amari Bertagnolli, Sweetwater County, 16th - tie.
Blake London, Campbell County, 16th - tie.
Abbie Smith, Goshen County, 16th - tie.
Cole Twitchell, Uinta County, 16th - tie.
Gideon Williams, Converse County, 16th - tie.
Taylor Ballek of Johnson County is Wyoming's champion and will represent the state at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.