LIMA — Melody Gallaspie, a 14-year-old eighth-grader who attends Elida Middle School, was the top speller in this year’s Allen County Spelling Bee, held in the Shawnee Middle School Cafeteria Saturday.
Gallaspie correctly spelled “chihuahua” then “conglomerate” to win over 14 other contestants.
“I’m really happy about it. I tried studying, and I tried my best — and I’m sure everybody did too,” Gallaspie said.
She spent the last month going over the words to prepare for the county bee.
“I just sit with my mom in my room and she asked me the words. We just keep going until I feel ready,” Gallaspie said.
Gallaspie and Vy Dang, a seventh-grader at Perry Junior High were top two finishers. For a while, it wasn’t clear who would win after both spellers started missing words.
“I was nervous and kind of just hoping for the best because I was fine, either way, second or first. I don’t care,” Gallaspie said.
There was a three-way tie for third initially and all three had to get up and spell more words after Gallaspie was crowned champion.
“I’ve not had it happen in the three years (I’ve been here) but the other judge (Mindy Schultz), she’s never had it and she said she’s been doing it for 15 years so we knew we wanted to make sure we had the correct kiddo,” said Shannon Bowers, director of gifted services at the Allen County Educational Service Center.
Finishing third was Nathaniel Bontrager, a fifth-grader from Spencerville schools. He won the run-off over Dyllan Day, a sixth-grader at St. Rose School and Khalil Horton of Liberty Christian School.
Gallaspie received a $100 gift card for finishing first.
Dang received a $75 gift card for second place while Bontrager received a $50 gift card for third.
This was the 32nd annual Allen County Spelling Bee.
The Allen County Bee was held in-person, something Bowers said was pretty special.
“We didn’t really think we were going to be able to have it. We weren’t sure. Then I contacted all the school districts and they wanted to try and move forward, and we had a lot of interest. So we decided to have it, and we had so much excitement with the kids that just really miss competitions like this in person,” Bowers said.
The national bee will be mostly virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic with a dozen finalists going to Walt Disney World in Florida.
Last year was the first time since World War II the event was canceled.
Preliminary virtual rounds will happen in mid-June, with the semifinals scheduled for June 27.
The finals will be held on July 8.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.