Hot Springs School abuzz with Spelling Bee

Photo by Brett Nachtigall/Fall River County Herald-Star

Hot Springs 7th grade student Colette Ambuul reacts after having correctly spelled the word ‘inadequate’ to win the 7th grade spelling bee during a public competition last Wednesday night, Jan. 10. Later that same night, Ambuul also won the overall title in an additional competition of all the top spellers from each middle school grade level.


By Brett Nachtigall


HOT SPRINGS – As a student-athlete, there are a number of sports in which one can compete in front of family and friends, while striving for recognition of success through cheers and applause. In the academic world, those opportunities are much more limited for school-aged boys and girls.

However, one such event took place recently for Hot Springs School elementary and middle school students, when preliminaries for the Scripps Spelling Bee were held.

According to Secondary Assistant Principal Eric Reynolds, the push to have a Spelling Bee competition in Hot Springs came from Superintendent Dennis Fischer who had been involved in spelling bees at several of the previous schools in which he worked, prior to coming to Hot Springs. Through Fischer’s leadership, both Reynolds and Elementary Principal Acacia Trevilllyan went to work at the beginning of the school year to get registered with the national Scripps Spelling Bee and formulate a plan that would allow Hot Springs students to compete and have an opportunity for advancement.

Reynolds added that the school district has been striving to create more opportunities for  non-athletes to receive public recognition for their success, which not only includes the addition of the Spelling Bee competition, but also the Fine Arts and Academic Students of the Week which are featured in the newspaper and announced in the school.

All Hot Springs students in grades 3rd through 8th were encouraged to participate, and just prior to the Christmas break last month, in-classroom spelling bee competitions were held after students were given a study list of words. Competitions were done orally with the teacher stating the word and students required to spell the word and then restate the word at the end.

In the middle school, the top nine students from each grade level (6th-8th) were determined through in-class competitions held in their English/Language/Arts (ELA) classrooms. A public competition, featuring a total of 27 students, was then held last week Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. in the Tays Center, where the top-three spellers in each grade level were determined.

With the nearby bleachers filled with supporters, the students were seated in three rows of nine chairs each, divided by their grade levels. Three teachers – including Assistant Principal Reynolds and Mindy Rickenbach – were then seated at a nearby table with ELA teacher Renee Cupsa standing, reading the words to the students, and then using it in a sentence, as each student came to the microphone one-by-one.

Once at the microphone, students spelled the word given to them, and if they got it incorrect, they retired to the bleachers to join their friends and family. If they got it correct, they returned to their seat in front of the audience and awaited the next round of competition. Regardless of being correct or not, the Tays Auditorium was often filled with cheers and applause from the friends and family in the stands after each student took their turn at the podium.

The top speller amongst the nine 6th graders was the first winner to be determined following completion of the third round, which saw Amelia Decker correctly spell the word ‘incubator.’ The 8th grade winner of Landon McClure was the next to be determined in the sixth round after he correctly spelled the word ‘conciliatory.’

After six rounds, there were still six of the nine 7th grade students remaining, demonstating the class’s depth of strong spellers. Finally, after eight rounds, the winner was determined when Colette Ambuul outlasted her fellow classmates and correctly spelled the word ‘inadequate.’

In addition to the competition to determine the grade level winners, an additional competition was held that combined the top students from each grade who spelled the most words correctly during the night. And once again, Ambuul emerged as the victor, followed by fellow 7th-grader Keenan White in second place and 8th-grader Landon McClure in third place.


overall winners.jpg

Similar to the middle school competition that was held last Wednesday evening, the elementary (grades 3 through 5) also held a public competition earlier in the day – at 12 noon on Jan. 10 in the Bison Center – which featured the top-two spellers from each of the nine classrooms for a total competition of 18 students. Through the exact same process, the top-three spellers in each grade level were determined as well. (See full results listed below).

Reynolds said that each school district is allowed to send only three spellers onto the next level, which is the Regional Spelling Bee at St. Thomas More in Rapid City on Feb. 10, at 9 a.m. Originally, he said, the school had planned to host an additional district-wide spelling bee on Jan. 17, pitting all 18 of the top middle school and elementary school students against one another to determine advancement. But now, Reynolds said, the school would likely be sending Ambuul, White and McClure to regionals since they had already competed and earned that designation last week.

In addition to the Regional Competition coming up in Rapid City next month, there are also four other regional competitions in South Dakota that will be held soon, including one at Mitchell (Feb. 3), Sioux Falls (Feb. 3), Watertown (Feb. 17) and Vermillion (Feb. 24). The top three winners from each of the five South Dakota area semifinal bee advance to the final state bee to be held at University of South Dakota in Vermillion on March 23. The top winner from the USD Final (Regional) 2024 Scripps Spelling Bee advances to the 2024 Scripps national bee competition, which has been held in the Washington D.C. area in the past.

This year’s Hot Springs Spelling Bee competition was helped to be made possible through a financial gift from the Hot Springs Rotary of $2,000, which purchased $25 gift cards the spellers in grades 3-8 who competed publicly on Jan. 10, as well as medals for the top three, who will now be advancing to the Regional Competition next month.

Below are the top three from each participating grade level:

3rd Grade – 1st Danyca Silva; 2nd Hazel Nelson; 3rd Naomi Smith

4th Grade – 1st Paisley Albertson; 2nd Nolan Simons; 3rd Braden American Horse

5th Grade – 1st Sophia Parker; 2nd Isaac Ambuul; 3rd Richard Little

6th Grade – 1st Amelia Decker; 2nd Camdin Allen; 3rd Joshua Christofano

7th Grade – 1st Colette Ambuul; 2nd Keenan White; 3rd Kadlin Humbracht

8th Grade – 1st Landon McClure; 2nd Annah Friedel; 3rd Von Morgan Frankfurt

Overall – 1st Colette Ambuul (7th grade); 2nd Keenan White (7th grade); 3rd Landon McClure (8th grade).

Fall River County Herald Star

EDGEMONT OFFICE: 410 2nd Avenue   Edgemont, SD 57735-0660 | 605.662.7201
HOT SPRINGS OFFICE: 334 S. Chicago St.  Hot Springs, SD 57747 | 605.745.3930
Send news to: Send Ad requests to: