It paid off.
The row of contestants?two from each elementary and middle/junior high school in the county?s five districts?dwindled quickly as the competition began.
Eight spellers took their seats in the first round. After one person was eliminated in the second round, six more students missed words in the third round as the level of difficulty increased.
In the fourth round, Carissa correctly spelled ?auditorium? while the remaining four contestants misspelled their words. She then secured the title by spelling ?cellophane? in Round 5.
?The first thought that went into my mind was, ?Oh great, now I have to go to Great Bend (site of the state bee),? Carissa said about the moment her spelling was confirmed by the judges. ?But I was very excited.?
With the champion determined, the bee resumed in order to identify the second- and third-place winners among the four remaining students: Lanna Wag?ner of Goessel Junior High, Elli Weis?beck of Hillsboro Middle School, Brandon Entz of Pea?body Junior High and Julianna Schrag of Goessel Elementary.
With the level of difficulty continuing to increase, the four students erred on 15 consecutive words before Julianna spelled ?debris? correctly in the ninth round to claim second place.
In the next round, Lanna captured third place by spelling ?retrospect? correctly while Elli missed on ?polenta? and Brandon on ?cartilage.?
In addition to the final five students, this year?s field of top spellers included these elementary school students: Cole Srajer and Cody Svoboda of Center, Edel Miller of Goessel, Abby Driggers and Maddie Suderman of Hillsboro, Colin Williams and Lindsey Sigel of Marion; and Gesaka Menjivar and Madelaine Beal of Peabody-Burns.
Representing the middle or junior high schools were: Dylan Deines of Center; Lydia Smith of Goessel; Reece Berens of Hillsboro; Mason Pedersen and Josh Knolla of Marion; and Cheyene Shaw of Peabody-Burns.
Carissa said her classmates gave her a warm reception when she returned to school after the morning contest.
?They all gave me a high five,? she said. ?One of my friends was gone that day, so didn?t get to tell him that day. I had to take a picture of the trophy to show him because he didn?t believe me at first.?
With her victory, Carissa earned the right to make the long trip to Great Bend on March 17 to represent Marion County at the state bee sponsored by the Great Bend Tribune.
The winner of that contest will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee on June 1 and 2 in Washington, D.C.