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Murray Journal

Co-champions will attend the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Apr 08, 2024 10:38AM ● By Peri Kinder

The Greater Northern Utah Spelling Bee crowned two champions on March 23. Brooke Powell (left) and Sophia Montana (right) will compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May in Washington, D.C. (City Journals)

For the first time, co-champions were crowned at the Greater Northern Utah Spelling Bee. Held on March 23, more than 160 students from 100 schools participated at the annual event. In the end, Sophia Montana (12) and Brooke Powell (13), decided to share the title. They will both travel to Washington, D.C. at the end of May to compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

It was Sophia’s first year at the spelling bee. A sixth grader at Daybreak Elementary in South Jordan, she studied the word list for hours every day. She’s excited to represent her school at the national event.

“This is a surprise, but I guess I was prepared,” she said. “I’m excited to see my cousin because she lives in Washington, D.C.”

Brooke, a homeschooled student from Fruit Heights, finished second in last year’s bee. This was her third year competing and she credits her calm demeanor on stage to lots of study and prayer. 

“I studied a lot so I’m excited to have a break,” she said.

Vedhav Devarajan (12), a student from Jordan Hills Elementary in West Jordan, finished third at the bee. 

The City Journals has sponsored the regional spelling bee since 2014 and pays for the trip to Washington, D.C. for the winner and one parent. Planet Tooth Pediatric Dentistry in West Valley sponsored a second speller this year, so two spellers could attend the national bee. 

During the competition, Brooke and Sophia could have continued spelling until one was named champion at the Greater Northern Utah Spelling Bee but they agreed to relieve some stress and share the title. 

Bryan Scott, owner and publisher of the City Journals believes it’s important to hold the event each year. He’s streamlined the process so the bee doesn’t last all day. All spellers completed a written test at the start of the competition and everyone had the chance to spell one word on the stage. After that, 20 students moved onto the final round to compete for the state championship. Scott was excited to see the winners agree to share first place. 

“I think it makes the end a little happier for people, but I think it gives us double the chance to get Utah recognized,” Scott said. “It’s just super fun to see the kids and particularly the kids that are here today.”

Last year’s winner, Surya Kapu, showed up at the bee to support the students. He finished tied for third place at last year’s national event. Although he was too old to compete this year, he thought he’d give the winners some advice. 

“Just try your best and keep having fun and learning the words,” he said. “[At nationals], try to calm down, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you worked for this. Rely on all the work that you’ve done.” 

Lisa Morgan Johnson, Brigham Young University assistant professor and linguist, was the pronouncer for the bee. Ron Squire (Jordan Hills Elementary), Wayne Rust (Aspen Elementary) and Tom Haraldsen (City Journals) were judges for the event. RubySnap provided cookies for the participants and lunch for the judges was provided by Great Harvest.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is a week-long experience for spellers and their families. From May 26-31, they will attend special events and workshops, take excursions into Washington, D.C. and compete in the nationally televised competition May 28-30. For more information, visit λ