Skip to main content

Yankton Middle School students take top honors at USD Spelling Bee

VERMILLION, S.D. -- Danielle Gillis, a Yankton Middle School student, correctly spelled “behemoth” to take top honors at the Southeast South Dakota Regional Spelling Bee on Saturday, Feb. 18 at the University of South Dakota.

Gillis, the daughter of Mike and Lilah Gillis of Yankton, finished first in the competition that featured 13 contestants from five area schools while Yankton Middle School student Bailey Sejnoha, daughter of Beau Sejnoha and Marie Huerta, was second. Gillis and Sejnoha advanced to the University of South Dakota Scripps Spelling Bee, which will be at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 17 at Aalfs Auditorium on the USD campus. The winner of that competition will have an opportunity to advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., May 29 through June 1.

In addition to Yankton Middle School, schools represented at the 2012 Southeast South Dakota Regional Spelling Bee included Sacred Heart Middle School (Yankton), St. Agnes Elementary (Vermillion), Dakota Valley Middle School (McCook Lake) and Scotland Middle School. Prior to the oral bee, students were required to complete a 50-word written spelling test. Yankton Middle School student Lauryn Perk, daughter of Lisa Perk, was declared the winner of the written test followed by Dakota Valley’s Erica Okine, daughter of Albert and Mary Okine, who was second. Additional students participating were Alex Messersmith of Dakota Valley Elementary, Tanner Fitzgerald, Kellie Geigle, Spencer Huber and Brandon Shuey of Sacred Heart Middle School, Kerry Cosman, Logan Fischer and Kyra Sundleaf of Scotland Middle School and Maddie Powell of St. Agnes.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is administered on a not-for-profit basis by the E.W. Scripps Company and local spelling bee sponsors in the United States, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Department of Defense Schools in Europe; also, the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. The competition is open for students in first grade through the eighth grade.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 78 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

This material is available in an alternate format upon request. Please contact University Relations at 605-677-5759. If you are a person with a disability and need a special accommodation to fully participate in any university activity or event, please contact Disability Services at 605-677-6389 as soon as possible, but no later than 48 hours before the event, so that appropriate arrangements may be made.


Hanna DeLange
USD News