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Super speller: Bemidji seventh-grader competing in state spelling bee

Riley Flint, a Bemidji Middle School seventh-grader, competes today in the Multi-Regional State Spelling Bee in Fergus Falls. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – Riley Flint is a bit of a wordsmith.

“I read a lot,” she said. “I get in trouble daily for reading instead of doing my work.”

She credits her frequent reading – mostly science fiction thrillers – with building her vocabulary.

Riley, a seventh-grader at Bemidji Middle School, today will put some of those skills to the test as she competes in Fergus Falls in the Multi-Regional State Spelling Bee.

She qualified for the state spelling bee Feb. 13 as one of the top-four finishers in the regional spelling bee in Thief River Falls.

The winner from the state competition will compete this spring in the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

“That would be really fun,” Riley said of the potential of making it to Nationals, “but I’m really not expecting to be on top. There is so much competition.”

Then again, she also didn’t expect to finish as well as she did at Regionals either.

At the regional competition, spellers first take a 50-word written test, from which the field is narrowed to finalists who compete in the oral round.

“I wasn’t really expecting to make it past the written test,” she said.

Riley was among five local girls who qualified for the regional spelling bee by finishing as the top-five students in Bemidji’s annual Spelltacular. Eighth-graders Aanika Sletta and Magda Blumhardt were the top two finishers in that event.

Riley said she was greatly impressed by the eighth-graders’ knowledge and performance in the spelling bees.

“A lot of Bemidji girls did really well,” Riley said, noting that she and the two eighth-graders earned plaques for their performance on the written test. “Aanika and Magda … they did really well. I was really impressed.”

In the oral round, Riley said she drew some easier words – such as maestro and cilantro – while other spellers were not as fortunate.

“I just remember sitting up there, under the stage lights, hearing these incredibly hard words (for other contestants),” she said, trying to recall some of the more difficult words that were posed.

Now, she said, she’s trying to prepare for the state spelling bee by studying –competitors are provided each year with a booklet containing hundreds of words from which competition words are chosen – but she has struggled to find the time.

“All (the competition words) come off the sheet but I don’t think it’s possible to memorize all of them,” Riley said. ‘I’ve been trying to study a little bit more now (for state) but it’s been hard.”