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Legacy Academy student prepares to 'bee' terrific

Speller will take part in statewide competition

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Taryn Crookshanks looks ready to tackle anything. Her favorite accessory, a black headband with a Nike swoosh, shows her dedication to athletics, and her recent spelling bee win shows she has the brains to match.

The Legacy Academy seventh-grader just won the district spelling bee, and now looks forward to competing at the state level. She promises that this for this round, she’ll even put in serious study hours.

Spelling for Crookshanks comes easily, and outside of the 30-minute weekly spelling bee practice at school, she spent little time reviewing the 160 words that contestants are given in advance. The night before the competition, she got together with a friend, and the two quizzed each other.

Her most difficult word, which she spelled on a lark, was "interstices," meaning small intervening spaces. After the kids spell all 160 of the words given in advance, which range from difficult to preposterous, the judges revert to everyday words.

“The word I won with was easy,” Crookshanks said with a laugh. “Slipper.”

This was Crookshanks’ third year competing. Her first time, she finished in the fifth round, and last year she won. Competing at the district level doesn’t faze her, but the state level does.

“It’s kind of scary,” she said. “Last year was fun, but there’s 2,000 kids there.”

And unlike her, a lot of those kids have full- or part-time spelling coaches to help them prepare. Studying for the state level is also more difficult because the kids are not given a comprehensive list, and instead have to page through the entire dictionary.

Kristen Crookshanks, Taryn’s mom, has led Legacy’s spelling bee practices for the past eight years.

“We play silly games or have a mock bee, anything that will familiarize the students with the list,” Kristen said. “We normally have 10 to 12 kids participate.”

Kristen also gets the younger Legacy children involved in classroom spelling bees to get them excited for the district bees in their futures.

“I am a spelling bee nerd so my heart soars when our kids have spelling success, but ask any former spelling bee contestant about the word she or he missed 30 plus years ago, and we can each tell you,” Kristen said. “Mine was ‘lobotomy’ in seventh grade in the Nevada state bee.”

Regardless of how far Taryn Crookshanks advances, her future remains bright. Despite a knee injury that kept her from cross-country this season, she does gymnastics, keeps stats for the girls’ basketball team, and above all, she plays soccer: So far, her efforts to convince her parents to let her join a traveling team have failed, but she said she is still working on them.

Outside of sports and spelling, Taryn loves her social studies class, which is gearing up for a simulated civilization with other schools. Last year Taryn was Israel’s president, and she aims to be captain of the guard this year because “I think it would be fun to arrest people.”

But truthfully, she had 15 minutes of peacekeeping in her presidency, and wants to encourage more of that. In her actual future, she plans to go to medical school, and considers becoming a pediatrician.

"Taryn is such an amazing young lady with a mature heart to go with everything she does,” said Dave Danforth, Legacy Academy’s dean of students and safety and security administrator. “Taryn is always thinking about everyone else and trying to encourage others before taking care of herself."

Danforth recalled how Taryn came out to his mother’s funeral service, even though the two had never met. He became misty as he talked about her show of support.

“She is a great kid,” Kristen said. “We are super proud of her and excited for her to get another shot at state.”

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