Mason Bawden is a pretty good speller.
The fact that he won the Redwood Valley Middle School spelling bee held this past Wednesday afternoon at the Redwood Area Community Center in Redwood Falls is proof of that.
Yet, what separates a student like Bawden from the rest of the students who have come through the local Grades 5-8 site is the fact that his most recent win was not the first.
In fact, when Bawden correctly spelled the word “juniper” to win the competition, he was declared the winner for the third time.
Bawden’s demonstration of his spelling prowess began in 2016 when as a fifth grader he joined the rare group of youngest students at RVMS to defeat everyone else, including those much older than he was, and win his first RVMS spelling bee.
Then, as a sixth grader, Bawden missed a word in that year’s spell-off and ended up placing second. That was the only year in the four that have made up his middle-school experiences when Bawden did not end up on top at the end of the spelling bee competition.
Yes, Mason Bawden is a three-time spelling bee champion at RVMS, and, as far back as this reporter and former local student can recall, he is the first who can make that claim.
So, what has led to Bawden’s success?
“I read a lot,” said Bawden, “and I remember the words.”
No, he added, he does not spend a lot of time just poring over words simply to learn how to spell them, but he said in the days before the competition his parents work with him and he faces off against his dad.
Being in the RVMS spelling bee is not automatic for any student. Bawden said to qualify students must demonstrate their spelling know-how in a test, with all students participating.
Only the top students in the school are asked to compete, and while not every student wants to be involved, Bawden has competed for four years in a row.
This year Bawden competed against 16 other RVMS students, including:
• Fifth graders Derek Anderson, Jace Berg, Damien Braun and Ming Lin
• Sixth graders Thomas Gerke, Cayden Johnson-Mariner and Landyn Nordby
• Seventh graders McKenna Flinn, Anneliese Hammer, Madison LeSage, Oliver Smith and Olivia Stoterau
• Eighth graders Grace Caraway, Kody Robinson, Conner Salmon and Cameron Seaman
This year two fifth graders rounded out the top three, with Jace Berg placing second and Ming Lin finishing in third place.
Bawden has qualified for the regional spelling bee, which is scheduled to be held Feb. 5 at the Redwood Area Community Center in Redwood Falls.
Bawden admitted he has not been as successful at the regional level. His goal this year is to make it to the final spelling competition. He said the contest includes a written round and then several rounds of oral competition.
After those are completed the top students compete in a spell-off.
Looking back, Bawden said he really enjoyed being declared the winner in fifth grade, adding he has not really thought that much about the fact that he has won three times.
After all, he has some unfinished business come Feb. 5.