Area students will compete in the 2014 Crawford County Spelling Bee Jan 25 in Alma for a chance to go to Little Rock and be named the top speller in Arkansas.

Alma, Cedarville, Mountainburg, Mulberry-Pleasant View and Van Buren school districts have entered 45 students to compete in this year’s bee, to be held in the Alma Performing Arts Center at 9 a.m.

Jami Anne Balkman, Literacy Specialist for the Alma School District, serves as the coordinator for the Crawford County Spelling Bee, which she said is a county-wide effort.

"First Community Bank, the staff of the Alma Performing Arts Center, teachers, families, administrators, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and local libraries all work together to make this a successful event," Balkman said.

Winner of the county bee will go on to compete in the statewide bee in March. The state winner will represent Arkansas in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.

Scripps provides a list of words that will be used during the spelling bees, and students are encouraged to learn and practice these words.

"Students will have to spell some difficult words. It takes hours of preparation to know not just the words on the study lists, but also how words work so you can figure out the ones not on the study lists," Balkman said.

While Balkman hopes every student does well, she said it takes real dedication to win at the county and state levels.

"Students have to study hard to prepare for this event," Balkman said. "They have to know how to spell the word, and remained poised under the pressure of spelling on stage."

Students study root words, base words and word origins to help themselves be better competitors, she said.

Officials for the 2013 county bee are Janie Weber, retired from the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith, who will server as this year’s announcer; Jennifer Hampton, Literacy Specialist with the Western Arkansas Educational Service Cooperative, and Melanie Allen, Director of the Alma Public Library, will serve as judges; Sondra Friend, Literacy Interventionist for Alma Schools, will be the appeals judge.

"The Crawford County Spelling Bee is fortunate to have experienced judges and support personnel that make the whole day better for kids, and that is what is most important," Balkman said.

Harmony Pettigrew, then a Butterfield Trail Middle School eighth-grader, won the 2013 Crawford County Spelling Bee. Pettigrew’s winning word was "karma."

Pettigrew secured her win over 44 other contestants in grades two through eight from the five Crawford County school districts in the seventh round.

Gift cards and trophies were awarded to the winner and first-runner up by a bank representative from First Community Bank of Crawford County.

The bank also provided T-shirts for all contestants and aided Pettigrew’s family with travel expenses to the state spelling bee in Little Rock.

The 2013 county bee participants are:

Alma Intermediate: Nathan Whalen Jr., Axl Spain, Janessa Morgan, Bella Nutt

Alma Middle: Rylee Lewis, Joy Jones, Xavier Frisby, Matthew McNally

Cedarville Elementary: Tayleigh Estes, Sarah Pham, Caroline Moore, Reese Merechka

Cedarville Middle: Chris Mendoza, Jordan Lindsey, Brandon Smith, Faith Weaver

Mountainburg Elementary: Joseline Lee, Haley Shepherd, Jodin Davidson, Laurel Hyman

Mountainburg Middle: Vangie Hernandez, Buck Buchanan, Leah Center, Zuriel Barton

Marvin Primary: Gracie Hamilton, Nayalin Espinosa, Landon Carrier, Beth Sluder

Millsap Intermediate-Pleasant View Junior High: James Bartlett, Amee Parish, Blake Rhoads, Paige Childers

Central Elementary: Hansen Elliott, Brayden Davis, Jacob Willinger

Parkview Elementary: Lily Grace Humphreys, Brooks Mulloy, Caleb Fergeson, Brooke Scott

Northridge Middle: Honey Matevia, Marcus Robertson, Hunter Harrison, Olivia Harris

Butterfield Trail Middle: Haley Carter, Debbie Quijada, Lyric Pettigrew, Brandon Cross