By Mark Hebert

Malta's Branham adds PC Spelling Bee to list of victories


February 12, 2020

Mark Hebert

Malta Middle School's Sadie Branham, left, shows off her first place hardware following her win at the Phillips County Spelling Bee held in Dodson last week. Malta Elementary School's Rylan Ohl, right, took second place

Though she hasn't lived in Montana for very long, Malta Middle School sixth grader Sadie Branham most likely knows how to spell it.

Branham was crowned Phillips County's 2020 Spelling Bee Champion at the County Bee at Dodson Schools last week as she outlasted all the other 30 contestants from Dodson, East Malta Colony, Malta Middle and Elementary, Saco, and Whitewater Schools (see all entrants names lower in this story.)

"I Just moved here like three weeks ago," Branham told the PCN post spelling bee victory, just about the time she won the Malta Middle School's Spelling Bee in late January by spelling "abundance" and "helium" correctly to take that title.

She is the daughter of Katie and Tanner Branham, the latter an employee of the U.S. Border Patrol, and the family made their way to Malta via Rugby, N.D.

"I like it here," Branham said. "It's a lot like Rugby."

And a lot like other spelling bees she has entered, the Phillips County Bee is now her fourth consecutive first place finish as she was the fourth and fifth grade champ at her previous school.

"This one was about the same," she said after being asked how the others compared to last week's.

Branham has never been to a State Spelling Bee after her previous two championships and said she is nervous and not sure what to expect about attending the 2020 Treasure State Spelling Bee which is generally held in March and will lean into the 93rd Scripps National Spelling Bee that will begin on May 24 in Washington, D.C.

"I will probably look up words on the internet and learn to spell them," Branham said of her study techniques for the state competition. "The same way I studied for this one."

The Phillips County Spelling Bee lasted a total of 12 rounds before Branham and Malta Elementary School's Rylan Ohl faced off for the final three rounds in the lead-up to the Championship. The first round of the bee saw eight contestants drop from the contest, four in the second and then slowly whittled down six contestants by the eighth round; Branham, Ohl, Junior Stiffarm from Dodson, Chloe Hofer from East Malta Colony, Jacob Brown from Malta Middle School, and Teagan Erickson from Saco. In the final round, the 15th, Branham correctly spelled "turbulent" following an incorrect spelling of "hazmat" by Ohl.

Ohl, a fifth grader, didn't seem upset by the second-place finish and started asking questions of this reporter before the PCN interview began.

"Is this real wood?" he asked, looking at his second place trophy. (Indeed, it was.) "It's cool!"

Ohl said that he had little to no pre-bee jitters ahead of the competition and felt he would do well because he knew he would.

"I have always wanted to win this, and I have been waiting for this day," Ohl said. "I do like spelling and I got fifth place in my school bee...I got some word that was like eight letters long. I did pretty good today and this is my first trophy, so it will go on my wall."

Contestants for the 2020 Phillips County Spelling Bee were as follows:

From Dodson: Kimberly IronBear, Mason Lonebear, Junior Stiffarm, Jeremiah Henry, and Kamaya Haakanson

From Whitewater: Ava Hanley, Mylee Clark, Kinlie Cummings, Shelbi LaBrie, and Kenan LaBrie.

From Malta Elementary: Bridger Benton, Renzey Raymond, John Ritchey, Finn Witmer, and Rylan Ohl

From Malta: Sadie Branham, Jo'Vahn Velasquez, Madelyn Ohl, Bradley Brown, and Kyle Darrington

From Saco: Carter Pippin, Laytin Erickson, Teagan Erickson, Blaine Downing and Marshall Caves

From East Malta Colony: Austin Hofer, Chloe Hofer, Jacob Hofer, Sophia Hofer, Gavin Hofer, and Laurie Hofer.

The event was emceed by Phillips County Superintendent of Schools Darlene Kolczak and the judges were Donna Young from Dodson, Rana Jesson from Whitewater, and Leah Molina from Saco.


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