FARMINGTON — After nearly 20 rounds of spelling competition between two students, Autumn Austin rose to the top as champion of the San Juan County Spelling Bee.

Twenty one students from public, private and home schools took the stage Tuesday night. The top three winners now will go to the state competition.

Wining with the word "Elixir," seventh grader Austin from the Christian Home Educators Fellowship Homeschool Association ended the 20-round face-off with seventh grader Elizabeth Johnson of Hermosa Middle School.

"It took a while and I was really, really nervous and really hoping that I would win but I wasn't sure as the words got harder," Austin said. "It gets more nerve wracking towards the end."

Austin worked with her mom, going over the list of Scripps National Spelling Bee words for fourth through eighth grade for 2013 and past years.

Johnson said she felt good about being able to compete at the state competition, agreeing with Austin the last 20 rounds took forever.

"(It's) always like that in a spelling bee," Johnson said.

Taking third place was Ben Jacquez, a sixth grader from Grace B. Wilson Elementary School, who said he studied an hour a day with his parents in preparation for the district and county spelling bees. He said he also was excited to attend state.

"I'm excited just to compete and see what it's like," Jacquez said.


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Students from the Aztec, Bloomfield, Central Consolidated and Farmington school districts competed with the Homeschool Association and private schools Grace Baptist Academy and Sacred Heart Catholic School.

Austin, Johnson, Jacquez and fourth place runner-up seventh grader Nathan Benson of Farmington Schools were the only students left after the fifth round, with Benson lasting until round 14 when he misspelled "newfangled."

Chris Pash helped organize the event and said there are not many of them left.

"It's neat to see kids come out and test their skills in spelling in this kind of setting," Pash said.

Jacquez, Johnson and Austin will compete at the New Mexico Spelling Bee in Albuquerque on March 23.