A virtual bee

The finalists in the 5th annual Malheur County Spelling Bee as seen Thursday. The competition went virtual for 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Nyssa Middle School student Cadi Corn, bottom right, won first place for the fourth consecutive year.


While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt live events, officials for the Malheur County Spelling Bee determined that the show must go on. The fifth annual bee was held virtually on Thursday, with its 90 participants from grades 1-8 taking part in the competition over webcam from their respective school sites.

Nyssa Elementary School once again played host to the bee. Principal Matt Murray explained the changes made to this year’s bee in an email Wednesday.

“The Bee is remote this year because of the clear health and safety concerns posed by the virus,” wrote Murray. “We wanted to continue to host the event, and in an environment where everyone feels safe and secure.”

To help lend an air of authenticity to the event, Nyssa teachers sang the national anthem to kick off the bee, and the ‘bee,’ the event’s mascot, made appearances throughout the day according to Murray.

To skeptics who may have worried about students cheating in a virtual environment, Murray was quick to put those fears to rest.

“Each student [competed] in individual rooms at the school sites, accompanied in the room by a staff proctor. Both the proctor and student [were] on camera together, and the student’s hands [were] visible at all times in order to eliminate the possibility of writing out the words.” Murray said each participant signed an integrity pledge prior to competing.

The list of words which challenged this year’s participants included “slither,” “serious,” “cladding,” “stealthily,” “inevitable,” “bilge,” and “blackmail.”

Following are the top winners in this year’s bee:

• Third place went to Olivia Wilson from Nyssa Elementary School.

• Layne Berrett from Arock came in second

• For the fourth time in a row, eigth-grader Cadi Corn from Nyssa Middle School is the county champion. Her winning words were “altar” and “cocoon.”

Murray expressed that in addition to the Malheur Education Service District, about 20 sponsors were drawn from “among many local businesses.”

Cadi plans to head to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney Resort in Florida. The finals will be broadcast live on ESPN 2 on July 8.

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