Ben Stokes, a Farrer Junior High School seventh-grader, knew how to spell "weevil" and "penguin" Thursday, and that ability earned him an opportunity to spell with the best in the state.

For the participants, the Provo School District Spelling Bee had all the tension of an NCAA basketball game, and in much the same way measured the combination of skill and composure under pressure.The competition featured 15 grammar school and junior high school students from throughout the district, who put their skills on the line spelling words like "circuitous," "piecemeal" and "furlough."

It took eleven rounds to come down to two final contestants, but only one round to get a winner from those two. Rachel Farnsworth, a Provost Elementary sixth-grader, incorrectly spelled "weevil." That left Stokes to correctly spell that word, as well as "penguin," to take the prize and to get the chance to participate in the state competition April 7.

The students had plenty of cause to be jittery. None of the students knew each other going into the competition, and they were forced to sit on stage during a 10-minute effort to get sound from the microphones - meanwhile accumulating the optimum number of butterflies.

The 15 participants looked unshaken, however. A practice round made it appear that it could be a long evening. But the first casualty came in the first round, as a student incorrectly experimented with the word "experiment."

The second round proved to be the most fatal, as one student showed that the only thing worse than sore tonsils was spelling "tonsils." Another will likely recognize "sukiyaki" on a menu in the near future, and another student would probably rather see a doctor than a "physician."

During round seven, one student left his position "vacant" by misspelling the word, while another student correctly spelled "correct."

In round ten Jon Pattee, a Westridge sixth-grader, stumbled over the same word that former presidential candidate Mike Dukakis stumbled over all fall. Both Dukakis and Pattee will probably never forget the word "furlough."

By round 11 there were three left in the competition, and Luella Laws, a Franklin fifth-grader, adjourned herself by misspelling "adjourn."

Stokes is the sixth Farrer student in 13 years to win the district contest. The only other school to have more than one winner is Westridge with two.

The April event will pit approximately 50 students from throughout the state. The winner of that contest will go the national contest.

Judges Don Norton and Royal Skousen, both from BYU, said the spelling bee isn't necessarily the best way to determine who is the best speller, because the competition tests primarily memorization and composure skills.