Eleven-year-old Joel Miles had home field advantage for this year’s Cass County Spelling Bee.
And while Miles may have been the youngest speller on the stage, the Raymore-Peculiar fifth grader didn’t let his age get in the way from winning after spelling “automaton” correctly March 5.
“I wasn’t that nervous, and I felt fairly prepared,” Joel said.
The Eagle Glen student has been waiting to earn the top spelling title for a least a couple years.
The annual bee was held at the Ray-Pec School District Administrative Services Center in Peculiar -- on the same stage Miles has been competing on multiple times in hopes to making it to the county level – and eventually to the national level.
Last year, Miles earned the runner-up spot at Raymore-Peculiar district competition. This year, Miles decided to work even harder to claim a victory.
And he did just that.
The only added surprise Joel encountered at this week’s competition was that he earned the ticket to compete at the national level later in the year.
He thought there may be a state or regional round of competition. But as the county champion, Miles is now qualified to receive an all-expense paid trip, including airfare, lodging, meals and spending allowance, to Washington D.C during the week of May 25-31 to compete at the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Joel said he had already been looking at a travel guide to the nation’s capitol in case he’d win. He said that there are many things he’s anxious to see there.
“We really wanted Joel to win because it was important to him,” said his mother, Terri Miles. “He’s really excited. He’s been wanting to go to Washington D.C. for a long time.”
Miles also received a trophy and $50 Visa Gift Card from UMB Bank.
“I’m just excited that I’m actually going to Washington D.C.,” Joel said. “It just sounds really awesome.”
Miles’ dad said his son has been motivated on his own accord to prepare for the bee.
“He has been a self-starter, and a self-teacher,” Loren Miles said. “I think we’ve spent maybe four hours or so; he’s spent 40.”
Joel remains humble, however.
“I really want to thank my parents for this,” he said.
Miles defeated four other spellers including runner-up Samuel Cheslik, a home-schooled sixth grader from Harrisonville, for the win.
Other participants were Sarah Kimsey, a seventh grader representing the Belton School District; Evan Filer, a sixth grader representing the Harrisonville School District; and Rachel Wilhoit, a sixth grader representing the Pleasant Hill School District.
The spelling bee is open to students in grades fourth-eighth.
The last time a Ray-Pec student won the Cass County Spelling Bee was in 2011 when Andrea Ambam represented the district and county at the national spelling bee.
Eagle Glen Principal Randy Randolph said Miles is a really hard worker in every subject.
“He took the initiative himself to really go above and beyond and prepare for this,” Randolph said. “The interesting thing about Joel is that he does this not just in spelling, but every area. He’s just a real superstar and I’m proud of him.”
The March 5 competition featured several familiar faces from past county bees, including Filer, who was making his third appearance. He was the 2013 champion and participated at the Scripps National Bee last spring.
Filer was the first student eliminated from this year’s competition after stumbling on “threshold” during the 10th round of the contest.
Wilhoit, who also participated in the 2013 county bee, followed Filer out of the competition during the 15th round after spelling “julep,” a sweet flavored drink, incorrectly.
Cheslik and Kimsey came out two rounds later. After Miles was named the winner, Cheslik and Kimsey then came back on stage to duel it out in a spell-off for the runner-up spot.
Other words that showed up in the bee included, “haiku,” “wiseacre” and “contraband,” as well as a couple non-traditional English words, including “maracas,” a percussion-style instrument native to Latin America, and “miso,” a common Asian soup.
A total of 92 words were presented during the competition.
Judges for the event were Cass County Assessor Bob Huston, Cass County Collector Pam Shipley and Cass County Recorder Mike Medsker.
Director of Student Services and Secondary Education Kristel Barr served as the pronouncer.