PRINCETON — Bureau Valley South's Jack Ritter took hold of the Bureau County Spelling Bee championship title on Thursday, after beating out 21 fellow junior high students in five rounds of spelling challenges.
Ritter, an eighth-grader, now advances to the Journal Star Grand Spelling Bee on March 21 in Peoria.
The runner-up of the competition was Valerie Hernandez, an eighth-grader from DePue Middle School.
In the first round of the bee, nine students were eliminated by misspelling words like "bruin" "prairie" and "tycoon." Another six contestants were beat out in the second round by misspelling words like "layette" "potash" and "diagnosis." Round 3 took two students with the words "alfalfa" and "feldspar."
In Round 4, only five students from Bureau Valley, Cherry, LaMoille, Princeton and DePue were left standing.
Ritter was able to spell "renegade" to conclude the bee in the fifth round. Hernandez's winning word was ""yieldable."
After the competition, an excited Ritter said he was feeling great about his win.
"I feel like I got lucky with most of the words I was given," he said. "I felt like the words from my study packet were much harder than the words that were given here."
While Ritter said there's really no secret to being a great speller, he believes he has a gift for spelling.
"I'm really not good at anything else other than spelling," he admitted. "So (spelling) is just where my brain is, I guess."
Looking ahead to his next competition, Ritter said he will continue "studying up" and memorizing the words given to him in a study packet.
Other contestants, who were individual champions at their schools prior to attending the countywide spelling bee, included:
• Bureau Valley North seventh-grader Madison Jackson.
• Cherry eighth graders Courtney Kobald and Madison Soldati.
• Dalzell seventh-grader John Potthoff and eighth-grader Destiny Ruiz.
• DePue seventh-grader Johnny Raya.
• Ladd seventh-grader Even Sartain and eighth-grader Erin Biccochi.
• LaMoille eighth-graders Alex Ely and Caleb Sarff.
• Malden eighth-grader Rayna Baker and seventh-grader Kendra Cain.
• Neponset seventh-graders Madison Karnes and Micah Reader.
• Ohio junior high students Cheyenne Hansen and Bethanie Quarton.
• Princeton eighth-graders Sara Grieff and Kyra Strom.
• Spring Valley eighth-grader Eli Komadina and seventh-grader Devan Janssen.
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