BEMIDJI -- Ivy Blumenshein came out swinging.

As a fifth-grader in the 35th annual Bemidji Area Schools Spelltacular Spelling Bee, she was one of the younger students competing. For that matter, it also was her first time taking part in the event.

In spite of that, she blazed ahead of 13 other students and took first place in the competition, which was held Tuesday evening at the Bemidji Middle School.

She may have been a little nervous, but she also knew what she had to do ahead of time.

“I felt confident because I looked up the words on the national bee, and I read those,” Blumenshein said. “There were 450 words, and I kept looking back -- I kept looking through the words.”

In addition to Blumenshein, the top three runners-up will advance to a regional competition in Thief River Falls. On Tuesday at the Middle School, Caden Beighley took second place, Dylan Maxwell took third and Brennan Elting took fourth.

If they do well in the Thief River Falls competition, they could keep advancing, potentially making it to a competition in Washington, D.C.

Other students competing on Tuesday included McKenzie Benson, Yesui Bates, Linnea Urban, Isabell McDonald, Kyle Yoder, Jameson Shafer, Logan Hart, Dashel Hiller, August Karvakko, Sophia Haubrich and Dylan Maxwell.

McKenzie Benson spells a word during the 35th Annual Bemidji Area Schools Spelltacular Spelling Bee on Tuesday at Bemidji Middle School. (Annalise Braught | Bemidji Pioneer)
McKenzie Benson spells a word during the 35th Annual Bemidji Area Schools Spelltacular Spelling Bee on Tuesday at Bemidji Middle School. (Annalise Braught | Bemidji Pioneer)

Even though only the top four will advance to the next stage of competition, all 14 of the students had to make it past their fellow classmates to compete in the Spelltacular in the first place.

Sue Hendricks, the coordinator for the Spelltacular, said students first took written tests. They then had smaller spelling competitions within the Bemidji Middle School and Gene Dillon Elementary to determine who would make it to the Spelltacular. Students in fifth through eighth grades were eligible to compete, meaning Blumenshein beat out students that were as many as three grades ahead of her.

Throughout the evening, the announcer, Sue Bruns, would give the students the word they needed to spell and then proceed to use it in a sentence. For some words, she’d give the definition and clarify whether the word was a verb, noun or adjective.

“Listen carefully, this word has a common homonym,” Bruns told a student at one point in the challenge.

One by one over multiple rounds, the students would walk up to the microphone with clipboard and pencil in hand, and recite the spelling of the word they were given. One word was "Louisiana." Others were "confection" and "campaign."

The word that sealed the deal for Blumenshein in the 16th round, though, was “abundance.” The judges raised their green cards indicating she had spelled the word correctly.

Now with the Spelltacular Spelling Bee under their belts, Blumenshein and the three runners-up are headed to even greater challenges.

“I’m so happy about that,” Blumenshein said about qualifying for the competition in Thief River Falls. “I’ll study a lot.”