Park Record crowns a victor at annual spelling bee
Melinda Buhlman did not step onto the stage and spell her first word at the Egyptian Theatre on Tuesday evening expecting to outlast the dozens of other students.
But one by one, the other participants were eliminated, while she barely hesitated each time she stepped up to the microphone. the time Buhlman had correctly spelled "odyssey" nearly an hour and a half after the competition had begun, it was clear: She is a s-t-u-p-e-n-d-o-u-s speller.
Buhlman, a seventh-grader at Rocky Mountain Middle School in Heber, bested her opponents to win the 10th annual Park Record Spelling Bee for fourth- through eighth-grade students on Tuesday. Ethan Scott, a fifth-grader at Timpanogos Intermediate School in Heber, finished second, while last year’s champion Brody Dicks, a sixth-grader at the Weilenmann School of Discovery, took third.
It wouldn’t have been clear to those who watched her correctly spell every word thrown her way, but Buhlman divulged after the bee that she was surprised that she won.
"I’ve been in a lot of them in the past, but I’ve never come this far," she said. "Of course, I had to do a lot of studying, but I seriously thought I wasn’t even ready. The school spelling bee that determined I was going to come here was Feb. 4, so I’ve had a while to practice but it was hard.
"But, she added, "I was really happy because I wanted to win."
The journey didn’t end Tuesday night for Buhlman, however. Winning the Park Record Bee means she will now get to test her chops against some of the best spellers in the world. The Park Record is sending her and a parent to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is set to be held in Washington, D.C., in May.
"I’m really excited," she said. "I was jealous of my parents because they get to go there for a convention for my dad’s work, and I was like, ‘I wanna go!’ So now I get to, I guess. I really don’t know much about Washington, D.C., I’m just really excited to see it."
But before she steps on the stage in front of a national television audience, Buhlman has a lot of work to do to prepare. She said she plans to work as hard as she can to ensure she had a good showing.
"I’m going to study a lot more," said Buhlman, who describes herself as a natural speller. "Although sometimes that’s kind of stressful. Sometimes I’d know the words completely, but since I’ve been studying for so long and it’s so stressful, I’d spell them wrong because my brain was fried."
As for the spellers Buhlman bested Tuesday, some of the top challengers are already gearing up for another go. Scott, the second-place finisher, said he wants to win next year.
"I definitely want to do it again," he said. "I did my first spelling bee in third grade, and it’s just something that I like to do."
Buhlman wasn’t the only champion speller crowned, however, as a bee was also held for second- and third-graders. Leila Brickley, a third-grader at McPolin Elementary School, walked away the victor after correctly spelling "necessary" for the win. Samantha Eden, a second-grader at Weilenmann, finished second, while Brooke Blevins, a third-grader at Park City Day School, took third.
"I just practiced every night like I was in front of people," Brickley said through a beaming smile. "I only practiced for about two weeks. I couldn’t believe I won."
Andy Bernhard, publisher of The Park Record, said all the students who participated should be proud. He added that putting on the spelling bee, and sending the winner to Washington, D.C., is one of the highlights of the year.
"The Park Record Spelling Bee has become a milestone community event for so many students where everybody from second- to eighth-grade can play," he said. "Seeing our finalists go after it on stage is really exciting. What a sense of accomplishment they must feel. It’s a testament to their hard work and perseverance, all of our students earned our respect and admiration."
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The Park City School District offices were inadvertently locked, but security footage was reviewed and the only two community members who showed up were let in and joined in an informal chat with Board of Education members and staff.