The Scripps National Spelling Bee is one of the oldest and most iconic competitions amongst the nation’s youth. It is so popular; ESPN even broadcasts the Championship Finals during primetime. On Tuesday, some of the Region’s top spellers gathered at Wheeler High School to participate in the Kankakee Valley REMC Regional Spelling Bee and attempted to qualify to stand in that national spotlight.
In attendance were 26 middle and elementary school students from across Lake, Porter, and LaPorte counties competed for the regional crown. After nearly 200 words and more than two dozen rounds, Sadie Maples, 13, from Highland Middle School, claimed the championship title and with it, a $150 cash prize and all-expenses-paid trip for two to the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. this May.
“I’m really excited,” Maples said. “’Capillary’ was the hardest word for me. I practice a lot, it’s a fair amount. I’ve been doing this since I was in fifth grade, we had qualifications, and I just thought, why not?”
Kankakee Valley REMC started sponsoring the Regional Spelling Bee back in 2010 after a chance opportunity.
“We do a lot with the youth around the area, so it felt like a natural fit to take on the spelling bee and support youth through another activity outside of trips or scholarships,” said Amanda Steeb, Marketing and Communications Director for Kankakee Valley REMC. “We always say, for these students, this is their sport. Just like those that might get excited to go out and play a basketball game, these students get excited to get out there and spell.”
Kankakee Valley REMC also donated $75 and $50 cash prizes to the second and third place finishers, while every other participant walked away with a $10 Wal-Mart gift card.
“To make it to this level of competition is a huge accomplishment for each student,” Steeb said. “We’re proud of each of them and are so excited to be here for them.”
Also supporting the students throughout the evening was Dr. Scott L. Simerlein, who served as pronouncer for the competition. As a former contestant at the National Spelling Bee, Simerlein knows just how important the event is for the students.
“I have a great compassion for the students up here spelling their hearts out, doing the best job they possibly can,” he said. “I always try and provide as much information and comfort as I can, because it can be hard. This is one of the earliest chances you have to experience defeat, and learn how to deal with it. Then there are those who win and get to go on to shine for the whole country at the National Spelling Bee.”