Faulkner County has a new champion speller.

One-by-one, the 60 students representing the county’s schools spelled for two hours until there were just two.

It ended swiftly — about 11 a.m. Saturday — when Matthew Sweere, 13, a student at Carl Stuart Middle School, missed with the second word he was given that day that described a shoe from another country.

"Geta," a Japanese shoe, was his hardest word so far, he said, but he spelled it successfully. Then he was given "klompe," a Dutch shoe. He missed, spelling klompe with a "c."

Once Sam Coker had spelled "matriarch" and then "gestapo" correctly, the contest was over, and he became the newest champion.

Coker, a 14-year-old, also from Carl Stuart Middle School, was competing in his fourth County Bee. He received a $100 savings bond. His parents are Keith and Sarah Coker, and his mother is a teacher at Ruth Doyle Elementary.

He said he hadn’t been coached before the Bee. 

"I just studied the book," he said, adding there weren’t any really hard words for him, but he used extra care when spelling a long word.

Coker will represent the county at the state bee in March.

Sweere, the son of Kathi and Danny Sweere, received a $50 savings bond. His mother is also a teacher at Ruth Doyle Elementary.

Third-place finishers were two seventh-grade home-schooled students. Sam Bentz, 13, son of Matt and Renita Bentz, was competing in his first bee, and Riley Lewis, 12, son of Lani and Jerry Lewis, was spelling in a bee for the second time.

David Larson, retired professor of history at Hendrix College, was the pronouncer. This was his 28th consecutive year to call out the words.

Donna Whiting, supervisor of gifted and talented programs for Conway Public Schools, coordinated the event in the James H. Clark Auditorium at Conway High School-West. 

Judges were Lynda Metz and Rachel Parker-Dickerson. They have judged the County Bee together for three years.

(Becky Harris can be reached at 505-1234 and