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Spelling Bee Champion

In this file photo from February, Ryan Crane, a seventh-grader at Basis Flagstaff, took first place in the annual Coconino County Spelling Bee at Coconino High School.

Ben Shanahan, Arizona Daily Sun

After nearly 60 rounds of back and forth for over an hour between the two finalists, it came down to one word with Latin roots meaning "huge" or "of the 10th."

Ryan Crane was ready: D-E-C-U-M-A-N.

Meet the new 2018 Coconino County Spelling Bee champion.

By 11;20 a.m., Crane, a Basis Flagstaff seventh-grader, had eliminated 19 other contestants and was facing off against Tanner Dodt from Flagstaff Home Educators, a home school program. The two then went head to head for nearly an hour, each spelling about 50 words correctly before Dodt made his first mistake in spelling “rataplan.” But then Crane misspelled the same word and the contest continued with each student in turn misspelling a word only to be corrected by their competitor.

That is until Dodt misspelled “portcullis” and Crane spelled it correctly and was given the championship word “decuman,” which he spelled correctly.

Third-place finisher was Iscariot (Izzy) Rushings, a fifth-grader from Williams Elementary School who finished second last year. He was eliminated after 12 rounds this year after he misspelled “flotilla.”

Each winner got to take home a cash prize:  $250 for first place, $150 for second place and $100 for third. The prizes were donated by Rotary clubs from Flagstaff, Williams and the Grand Canyon.

Crane said he was pretty tired at the end of the competition, but it felt good to win. He will go on to compete in the Arizona State Spelling Bee in March. He said his mom tested him a lot and he checked the Merriam-Webster dictionary for tips on how to spell words with foreign roots.

“I don’t know if I’ll win at the state, but I’ll try,” he said.

His father and mother, Mark and Bettie Crane, said their son had been practicing for the county bee for only three weeks. He suddenly decided a week before the school spelling bee at Basis that he wanted to compete, Mark Crane said.

Ryan is not the first member of the Crane family to win the county spelling bee. Crane’s older brother Lucas won it in 2013 and his eldest brother Austin won in 2009. Austin won after 39 rounds and nearly 90 words.

Coconino County Superintendent of Schools Risha Van der Wey said in the four years she’s been doing the spelling bee she’s never seen such a fierce competition between two students in the final round. The judges had to send someone back to Van der Wey’s office to get extra words during a five-minute break in the bee, just in case they ran out of words.

The reporter can be reached at or (928)556-2253.


Education/Business Reporter

Suzanne writes about education and business. She covers the local school district, charter schools and Northern Arizona University. She also writes the Sunday business features.

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