Top spellers at Chatfield advance to regional bee

SUBMITTED PHOTO Carly Backen and Nick Long are the Chatfield school spelling bee winners.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Bee all that you can bee.

Even if it’s a “chicken” speller.

“I don’t remember any of the words distinctly – except for at this one point, the words were getting more difficult, and I went up, nervous for my next word, and she said, ‘Spell ‘chicken.’  I stopped for a moment and said, ‘Chicken?  You mean like the animal?’” stated Chatfield High School eighth grader Nick Long, who was the school spelling bee second place winner. He was “expecting a much harder word” as part of the challenge that led him to second place.

Long will join Chatfield seventh grader Carly Backen, who placed first in the school bee, for the preliminary regional spelling bee at the Southeast Service Cooperative Feb. 11. 

Backen enjoys reading

Backen shared that she was encouraged by her teachers and classmates to participate in the spelling bee. 

“I do enjoy reading, and spelling is not that far from it,” she said. 

The day of the local bee, all of the seventh and eighth graders filled the gym.  The contestants sat in chairs and individually went up for each round. 

“Gradually, people were beginning to be eliminated, and then it was Nick and I,” she said. “When I won, I felt proud of myself.” 

Backen said she usually studied for the spelling bee for a few minutes each night after finishing her other homework. Her parents helped her by quizzing her on words.  She is going to continue to do the same method of studying for the regional bee as she did for the local one. 

“There was a variety of words in the list, from multiple different languages.  It started out easier, but progressively, it got more difficult,” she said.  “I can’t remember the word I won on, but I remember that only one of the judges heard how I spelled it.  The other judges believed that I had spelled it incorrectly, but one had heard how I spelled it correctly.”

Backen anticipates the regional spelling bee for the chance to grow her vocabulary. She not only hopes to improve her overall knowledge of English at the regional bee, but also her knowledge of foreign languages.  There are many difficult words on the list, she noted, as there are many scientific terms, chemical components and foreign words to study. 

“I look forward to competing against the most advanced students in southeastern Minnesota in the regional bee.  And honestly, I am not very nervous for the regional bee.  If I advance, that’s great, but if I don’t, that’s fine, too.  The best thing is that I made it there,” Backen said.  “If I advanced to the national bee, I would most look forward to going to Washington, D.C., and seeing all the tourist attractions.  It would also be fun to see how different Washington is from small-town Minnesota.    

The seventh grader loves reading, especially science fiction and horror fiction, as well as writing.  Her favorite subject in school is English.  “I like how there can be multiple answers for the same question,” she said. 

After she graduates from high school, she would like to go into the health field.  “I’ve been thinking about being a physical therapist, but more recently being a pediatrician or a general practice doctor,” she said.

Long has writing aspirations

Long was asked by a teacher to participate in the spelling bee, and he decided to take the opportunity to test his knowledge. 

“I had always had fun with English and languages, so I guess when she asked, I said I would do it,” he said.  “I enjoy trying to put big words in my sentences to sound more intelligent than other people.  It’s fun to see that dumbfounded look on their face.”    

He quipped that he earned a place in the winners’ lineup at the school bee out of “sheer luck” because he didn’t study much. 

“I ran the words one time, the night before the actual spelling bee took place.  I distinctly remember telling Josie, who won the spelling bee last year, on the morning of the spelling bee, ‘I better not get beat by a seventh grader!’  The word that I got out on, therefore putting me in second place, was ‘teak,’ which is, by the way, a tropical tree.  Yes, I know, it’s a small word, but those buggers will get you,” he said. 

He observed that since he didn’t prepare much for the school spelling bee, it didn’t seem that special, although he did appreciate the “high fives” he got.

“This time, I’m taking it more serious.  I’m running the words and reading them all the time to make sure I’m ready.  Some of the hardest words I’m studying are ‘hyacinth,’ ‘enthalpy,’ ‘concomitant,’ ‘irascible,’ and they’re words I can’t spell from memory – yet never wish to,” Long said.  “I hope to learn how far I can go without messing up.  Any bets I will get out on the word ‘desk’ or something?  Or who knows?  It could be ‘chicken’.”       

English is his favorite subject, followed by art.  He loves to write, though, and hopes to become an author soon. 

“Right now, I’m working on two one-act play scripts, a novella, a musical adaption script, and I’m playing around with ideas for another novella.  I hope to try and publish something someday.  I desire to be an accomplished author, a stern play writer, and a film director and producer once I graduate college,” he said.  “Whatever happens does not affect my future.  It is just a simple spelling bee, and I’m treating it as that.  My real heart is in theater, music, movies and other ways of conveying emotional storytelling.”

He plans to enjoy the regional spelling bee for the opportunity to meet other students from the area as well as gaining the experience. 

“The fact they may have more experience than us keeps me a little on edge, he said.”

If he were to win, he’d appreciate the trip to Washington, D.C.  “I would like getting to travel,” he said.