For some reason, Frontier Elementary School seems to have the spelling market cornered.
When Payson's three elementary schools squared off in the Payson High School auditorium last week to see who would represent the school district at the regional spelling bee in Globe in February, FES swept all three places. Three winners also were chosen from Rim Country Middle School, which had no outside competition.
And to make it just a little sweeter for FES, two of the three RCMS winners once attended Frontier.
The three elementary schools sent their top six spellers plus an alternate to the local spelldown, while RCMS was allowed to send its top 12 spellers and an alternate.
The six winners are:
1. Amanda Finley (FES)
2. Ben Paric (FES)
3. Ehren Welch (RCMS)
4. Eric Dory (RCMS/FES)
and Sarah DeWitt (RCMS/FES)
5. Jeff Day (FES)
When asked what advice they would give those who are spelling-challenged, the three FES fifth graders were more than willing to share their secrets.
"I practice, I take my time when I spell, and you just have to work hard," Finley said, adding that it helps if you are born a good speller like she was. Finley breezed through words like "frustrated," "alligator" and "reassurance" to take the crown.
For Paric, who finished second by conquering words like "torpid," "eyewitness" and "astrologer," the key is to get as much information as you can.
"Like Amanda said, you have to practice, and when you're up at the microphone, ask for the definition of every single word and (to have it used) in a sentence," Paric said. "You can also ask them to repeat the word."
Through study, you get to know a lot of words, Day said. He won fifth place by correctly spelling such words as "icebound," "cafeteria" and "misspelling."
"You need to look in dictionaries," he said. "Do it in your spare time. And especially study 'x' and 'z' words because they can be tough."
All three winners also agreed that reading has helped them become better spellers.
"I wasn't really born a good speller," Paric said. "But through reading I've become one. Playing video games also helps."
But the threesome unanimously rejected the theory that there might be something in the water at FES that produces champion spellers. And they were even more emphatic that the secret to their success cannot be found in the cafeteria food.
"You can jump on the brownies without breaking them," Day said.
FES Principal Sue Myers has a simpler theory.
"We were just lucky," she said.
The winners of the regional tournament go to the state spelling bee, PHS teacher Peggy Miles, coordinator of the event, said. There, the top 25 spellers in the state will compete to determine who will represent Arizona in Washington, D.C., at the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee in May.
The state champion gets an all-expenses-paid trip to the national contest, a $100 savings bond, and a Websters Third New International Dictionary.
For more information on the spelling bee, go to the website azedfoundation.org.