First year, second place
KALONA — A boy from Kalona has won $10,000 for placing second in the National Bible Bee over the weekend. Taylor Bontrager, 10, competed in the bee from Thursday through Saturday in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Taylor is the son of Marlin and Becky Bontrager of rural Kalona. Taylor was one of two Bontrager boys who competed at the National Bible Bee, the other being his older brother, Joshua, 15.
On the first day of the competition, Taylor took a multiple-choice exam of 200 questions on 1 and 2 Timothy. The other part of the competition was reciting Bible verses from memory.
Taylor was in the youngest division, the primary division. Contestants in that age division are expected to learn 400 verses. The competition is so stiff that the children cannot afford to make a mistake. In fact, Taylor went through 7 rounds in the semi-finals and 15 rounds in the finals without missing a single word on any of his passages.
One hundred children compete in each of the three age divisions. After the first day of competition, the field is whittled down to 15, and then on the third day it is reduced to five.
Before the final day’s competition, Marlin and Becky told Taylor he should be mindful that there was a long passage from the book of Nehemiah that the judges hadn’t yet asked any contestant to recite. The passage, Nehemiah 4:4-20, is 16 verses long, about twice as long as the next longest passage in the list. The Bontrager parents told Taylor he should study this passage since it might come up during the finals.
Sure enough, Taylor was given the passage to recite. He looked at his mother, who pointed to her eyes, reminding him of the conversation they had earlier about keeping his eyes on Jesus.
Taylor said he was nervous when the judges called out the passage, but he recited all 16 verses perfectly. The crowd erupted and gave Taylor a standing-ovation.
After the final round on Saturday, Taylor was one of three contestants who had not made any mistakes in the final round. To break the tie, the judges looked at the contestants’ scores from the opening round on Thursday.
Taylor said he was very excited to get second place. He said he doesn’t yet know what he’ll do with the $10,000 in cash prize money. He also won scholarships and various gifts that together total about $3,000.
“I’ll probably ask my dad what to do with the money,” he said.
Taylor said he began studying for the Bible Bee in early June. Over the summer, he spent an hour a day memorizing the Bible, which increased to three hours per day in the fall.
Joshua, who won fourth place at nationals a year ago, did not make the finals this year. Marlin said the competition was very tough, and it seems to be getting tougher every year. Marlin said Joshua has a goal of memorizing the entire Bible by the time he is 20. Taylor said he’d like to memorize several books in the New Testament.