Spelling Bee winners 2021

Taylor Simnick of Monticello (right) took top honors at the Piatt County Spelling Bee last week. Finishing second was DeLand-Weldon’s Emma Dunn (left).

DELAND — Taylor Simnick blends old-fashioned and new-fangled techniques when she studies for the annual spelling bee season. It paid off last week when she emerged victorious at the Piatt County Spelling Bee at DeLand-Weldon.

“I study a lot for the spelling bees. What I do first is I get lined sheets of paper, and I write each word over and over again. And my dad got me an app that pronounces a word, and then I have to type in the word to spell it, so I eventually have the words memorized,” Simnick said.

It was her fourth straight year of advancing out of the local Monticello school district round, but the first time advancing out of the county-wide bee.

“It was really exciting, knowing that my hard work paid off over the years. It felt nice. And bringing home a win for Monticello was just a good feeling, to make everyone happy,” she said.

Simnick and second-place finisher Emma Dunn, a sixth-grader from DeLand-Weldon, now advance to the regional spelling bee March 13 at Richland Community College in Decatur.

The duo went back and forth for several rounds before Simnick came out on top with the correct spelling of “calzone.”

The Monticello Middle School student had a chance to win earlier, but was tripped up on “arrondissement,” which kept Dunn alive after she had also missed a word.

Washington Elementary Principal Nancy Rosenbery, who runs the county spelling bee, said it was a challenge this year for all spellers.

“This was the hardest spelling bee I have ever been a part of,” she said. “There were words where we would look at each other and say, ‘I don’t know what that word is.’ I give kudos to the students, because, wow.”

So, what is Simnick’s secret to performing so well in spelling bees through the years?

“I just try to stay relaxed and not overthink it, because getting nervous doesn’t help,” the eighth-grader said.

That kept her calm when the her final word, “calzone,” nearly threw her for a loop.

“I thought there was going to be an extra ‘a’ between the ‘l’ and the ‘z.’ It was confusing,” Simnick said.

Simnick is the daughter of Kevin and Samantha Simnick of Monticello, and has a brother who is in ninth grade.

Spelling bee participants

Atwood-Hammond – Aya Jacot, Sophia Johnson, Cassidy Rohacs, Ruby Barton, Lindsay Rohacs

Bement – Emerson Larson, Emmalyn Ewers, Cassie Block, Shelby Senter, Gabrielle Block

Cerro Gordo – Sabrina Sterling, Ramie Shaffer, Harley Boedecker, Samantha Sterling, Brenden Puckett

DeLand-Weldon – Abigail Hurley, Isaiah Knight, Emma Dunn, Dayton Weisman, Emma Westray

Monticello – Cecelia Anderson, Connor Andrew, Addison Dorjahn, Westin O’Linc, Taylor Simnick

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