Eley wins Darke County Spelling Bee for second straight year


By Dawn Hatfield


DARKE COUNTY — On Thursday, Jan. 26, Hunter Eley, an eighth-grade student from Arcanum-Butler Middle School, was declared Darke County Spelling Bee champion for the second year in a row.

On this exciting day for the county’s top spellers, 32 students and their parents gathered at Romer’s Catering to share a special lunch before the 2023 Darke County Spelling Bee, hosted by Darke County Educational Service Center (ESC), commenced. Twelve rounds of competition were necessary to determine Eley as the winner when he spelled both “succumb” and “follicle” correctly.

Eley was asked how he felt coming into the contest and replied, “I was a bit nervous, but I was also thinking how I won it last time, and I probably could win it again this time. You know, you have your suspicions at the beginning, and once you get down [to the final rounds], you’re thinking, ‘Oh yeah, this is going in my favor.’”

Eley cited no specific method of preparation, explaining, “I seriously have no clue what makes me such a good speller. I think I just have a high level of intelligence—”

Eley’s father interjected, “A photographic memory.”

“Photographic memory, yeah,” Eley said. When asked if superior memory runs in the family, Eley answered, “No, it’s just me.”

Eley said as an eighth grader, this would be his last year to compete, so it’s all the more important for him to take his 2023 win to the next level. “I’m going to try my best [this year] to go to regionals and win that, maybe even nationals,” he said.

Randy Tharp of Tri-Village Junior High finished as runner-up; Carter Harbach of Franklin Monroe Junior High placed third; and Nick Swiger of Bradford Junior High placed fourth.

Trophies were awarded to the top three winners, and a medal was given to fourth place. Words ranged from “apron” and “erase” to “inimical” and “indefatigable.” Competition words were provided to schools and districts by the National Spelling Bee. Tim Nealeigh was the pronouncer for the contest, which was judged by Anita Dehner, Kelly Fourman, and Jenny Hemmelgarn.

Moderator and Roundkeeper, April Hoying of Darke County ESC, explained that Eley’s next step will be to participate in an online regional spelling test.

Reach Daily Advocate Reporter Dawn Hatfield at [email protected] or by phone at 937-569-0066.

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