Edgewood seventh grader Martius Bautista is Wisconsin’s top speller

Judy Newman:

The fourth time proved to be the charm for Madison seventh-grader Martius Bautista.

Bautista, 12, a student at Edgewood Campus School, outspelled 45 competitors from around Wisconsin to win the first-place prize at the Badger State Spelling Bee on Saturday after correctly spelling “rhizograph,” a device that traces the movement of roots in the soil.

As other students stumbled over words more popular a few decades ago — such as “kahuna” (an important person), “nosh” (snack) and “gestapo” (a reference to the Nazi secret police), Bautista soldiered on, mastering esoteric words such as “jacamar,” a type of tropical bird; “serdab,” an ancient Egyptian tomb; and “benzoin,” a balsamic resin.

In the 25th round at Madison Area Technical College’s Mitby Theater, only Bautista and Hanna Ghouse, a Kenosha seventh-grader, remained on stage. Ghouse tripped on the word “apteryx,” a flightless kiwi bird. Bautista spelled it correctly and took on the next word, rhizograph, to win the top award.