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.

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