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Students ready for area spelling bee




Clara Crawford is back at the Ellis County Spelling Bee after a year's absence. It's been an even longer wait for Dawson Sproul and Dhir Patel.

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Clara Crawford is back at the Ellis County Spelling Bee after a year's absence. It's been an even longer wait for Dawson Sproul and Dhir Patel.

Crawford, a sixth-grader at St. Mary Grade School in Ellis, qualified as a third-grader in 2011 and again as a fourth-grader the next year but didn't make it out of her school competition last year.

Sproul, an eighth-grader at the public grade school in Ellis -- Washington Elementary -- like Crawford also qualified in back-to-back years, during his third- and fourth-grade years in 2009 and '10, and has been waiting four years to return.

So, too, has Patel, a fourth-grader at O'Loughlin Elementary in Hays when he first qualified for the county bee in 2010 and now will be representing a different school this time, as an eighth-grader at Hays Middle School.

The annual county bee, in is 58th year, is set for 7 p.m. Thursday in the Fort Hays Ballroom of Fort Hays State University's Memorial Union. The winner advances to the 2014 Sunflower Spelling Bee on March 8, also at Fort Hays -- in Sheridan Hall's Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.

Crawford and Patel made sure they would be competing in the county finals again by winning their school contests earlier this semester.

They will be joined by several other returnees, including one who, similar to Crawford and Dawson, qualified for a third time for the finals -- fifth-grader Andrew Duke from O'Loughlin, who qualified both his third- and fourth-grade years.

Also from O'Loughlin, fourth-grader Madelyn Martin made the finalist list after serving as her school's alternate last year.

Of the 11 schools participating in this year's county finals, eight have returnees.

Other returnees from last year's finals are fifth-grader Sheena Zeng from O'Loughlin; fourth-grader Aleyia Ruder from Roosevelt; eighth-grader Blakely Bittel from Ellis' Washington Elementary; sixth-grader Sage Goering from Hays Middle School who qualified as a fifth-grader at Wilson Elementary; and Victoria's Sierra Burr, an eighth-grader at the junior high, and Dallas Nowlin, a sixth-grader at the elementary school.

Ruder will be on her own this year after qualifying along with her older brother, Dylan, a year ago.

Other youngsters will be carrying on a family tradition, too, including Crawford, whose older sister Sarah qualified as a sixth-grader two years ago and was an alternate last year.

Seth Gillock, a third-grader from Lincoln Elementary in Hays, will represent his family this year, just as older brother Sean did a year ago as a fourth-grader.

Fourth-grader Journey Eck from St. Mary is carrying on her family name as well. Her older brother, Daniel, qualified last year after making it as an alternate in 2011 -- the same year their first cousin, Joseph Eck, qualified as a fifth-grader.

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Qualifiers for Thursday's 2014 Ellis County Spelling Bee, listed with their school and their grade:

* Hays Middle -- Dhir Patel, eighth; Sage Goering, sixth; Kyler Voss, eighth; Emily Goetz, sixth. Alternate: Eric Adams, eighth.

* Lincoln Elementary, Hays -- Tate Kaiser, fifth; Morgan Shorb, fourth; Seth Gillock, third; Brenna Schwien, fourth. Alternate: Andrew Prine, fifth.

* O'Loughlin Elementary, Hays -- Andrew Duke, fifth; Madelyn Martin, fourth; Ryan Zhang, fourth; Shenna Zeng, fifth. Alternate: Ben Pfannenstiel, fifth.

* Roosevelt Elementary, Hays -- Grace Desbien, fifth; Kamryn Schoenberger, fifth; Aleyia Ruder, fourth; Ginny Ke, fifth. Alternate: Gabe Seller, fifth.

* St. Mary, Ellis -- Clara Crawford, sixth; Cheyenne Born, sixth; Nevaeh Heroneme, fourth; Journey Eck, fourth. Alternate: Matthew Bieker, fifth.

* TMP Junior High, Hays -- Tabitha Brandel, eighth; Trae Megaffin, eighth; Josh Stecklein, seventh; Anna Gottschalk, eighth. Alternate: Michael Braun, eighth.

* Victoria Elementary -- Dallas Nowlin, sixth; Kinley Windholz, fifth. Alternate: None.

* Victoria Junior High -- Sierra Burr, eighth; Kaitlyn Brown, seventh. Alternate: None.

* Washington Elementary, Ellis -- Dawson Sproul, eighth; Blakely Bittel, eighth; Clay Shaw, fifth; Mac Hayes, seventh. Alternate: Logan Shaw, seventh.

* Washington Elementary, Hays -- Damion Anderson, fourth; Evelyn Vallejo, fourth; Justus Nelson, second; Sydney Walker, fifth. Alternates: Cesar Marcias, fifth, and Nicolas Park, fifth.

* Wilson Elementary, Hays -- Allison Brooks, fifth; Lauren Wagner, fifth; Ayiesha Williams, fourth; McKale Pierson, fourth. Alternate: Zachary Chance, fifth.