Some might argue that the advent of automatic spell-check has made the ability to spell difficult words — and easy ones, too — about as relevant as a hardbound dictionary.

As a writer, I refuse to accept that argument — although I would be lying if I told you that spell-check has never saved me from embarrassment. But knowledge of correct spelling can come in handy sometimes. Especially in spelling bees.

A new champion was recently crowned at the Missoula County Orthography Bee: Lolo School seventh-grader Sam Person, whose perfect recitation of the letters in the word “duenna” — which means “female chaperone” — earned him the second county spelling title of his short career.

News of Sam’s accomplishment brought up memories of my own spelling bee experiences — some of which I still haven’t quite gotten over, even though I have grown up to work in the writing and editing business.

Back in the day, I did quite well in my class and grade-level spell-offs, but I always ended up choking in the bigger competitions. I will never forget the day when, as a fourth-grader, my dreams of spelling bee stardom were dashed against the rocks thanks to that pesky silent “e” in “avalanche.”

That word is mere child’s play compared to those that tripped up some of Sam’s challengers: “scythe,” “jambalaya” and “colloquial,” to name a few.

That makes Sam’s accomplishment all the more awesome, but I will always be empathetic toward my fellow spelling bee might-have-beens. To them, I say, “Don’t worry — there’s always next year!”

And if not, there’s always spell-check.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.