TWIN FALLS — Emily Fouts spelled “isinglass” without hesitation March 5 to become south-central Idaho’s top speller.
The 13-year-old knew the word. Isinglass is a kind of gelatin made from fish, but more importantly, it was in a packet of spelling bee words she’d spent hours learning.
“I studied that really thoroughly,” she said with a huge smile after.
It paid off for Emily, an eighth-grader at Vera C. O’Leary Middle School in Twin Falls. She won the fourth annual Times-News regional spelling bee at the L.A. Thomas Gymnasium in Kimberly.
Emily will represent south-central Idaho at the Scripps National Spelling Bee May 27-June 1 in National Harbor, Md. She and a parent will receive an all-expenses paid trip. It will be a huge trip for Emily, who has never traveled outside of Idaho.
Students qualified for the regional competition by placing at their school’s spelling bee, generally, in first or second. The Times-News printed 17,000 spelling bee guides in November 2017 to distribute to every first through eighth grade across south-central Idaho to help them prepare for school-level competitions.
In total, 43 students in second through eighth-grades from 20 south-central Idaho schools competed during the spelling bee.
After the event, Rebecca Fouts wiped tears from her eyes as she hugged her daughter. She had been on edge with anticipation as Emily progressed in the competition.
“I’m really proud of her,” she said. “I hope she’ll use this experience to know what she’s capable of.”
Fouts said her daughter was incredibly nervous on the way to the spelling bee. Emily said she wasn’t expecting to win, especially when she heard other students spell words she didn’t know.
She was among three spellers in the championship round, all from Twin Falls. Others were Eyouel Abate from Vera C. O’Leary Middle School and Abigail Burrill from Bridge Academy.
Eyouel got out on the word “sukiyaki,” a Japanese dish consisting of thin slices of meat. He came in third place.
Emily and Abigail faced off for a few final rounds until Abigail finally misspelled “synchronous.” They high-fived, shook hands and congratulated each other.
College of Southern Idaho President Jeff Fox was the pronouncer for the event, and Times-News interim Editor Alison Smith and reporter Mychel Matthews were judges. Each word was selected from an official bee list. Students could ask a few questions, such as for a word’s definition.
When students spelled a word correctly, they heard a bell ring. If they spelled a word incorrectly, they returned to the audience to sit with their family.
During the first round of the spelling bee, Sawtooth Elementary School student Will Hawkins received the word “xylophone,” the most complicated word up until that point in the competition. He spelled it correctly. In the second round, he correctly spelled “jaguar,” but was out in the third round with “flotilla,” a small fleet of boats.
Kimberly Middle School student Hannah Reed got another complicated word in the first round: “huckster,” a dishonest and aggressive salesperson or advertiser. Oregon Trail Elementary School student Ricky Roper brought his hand up to his chin, stopping to think for a moment midway through attempting to spell the word “wikiwiki.”
Harrison Elementary School student Jally Zi got the word “aria,” a melody sung by a single performer, in round two. She asked for the definition, for Fox to say the word a few times — including with his mouth away from the microphone, and there was an uncomfortably long silence in the gym as she thought about how to spell the word. After more than a minute, she asked Fox to repeat the word again. The audience began fidgeting. Jally started spelling: “a,” and after an even longer pause, she continued: “r-i-a.”
The bell rang, and the audience erupted with applause.