A new champion was crowned on Thursday evening when Kristianna Desormeaux, a student at South Central Elementary School, claimed first place at the LaPorte County Regional Spelling Bee.
Desormeaux topped a field of 18 competitors, each of whom qualified by winning their school’s spelling bee. The regional, sponsored by Kankakee Valley REMC, is also the first major step towards the national competition. Desormeaux’s hard work qualified her to participate in a virtual round of spelling, where she can earn a ticket to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Orlando, Florida.
“I studied every day, and then three times a week my grandma would test me on the words and mark down all the ones I needed to go over again,” she said. “I’ve done this for two years, and last year I at least made it to regionals. I’m really excited to win. I want to thank my grandma for helping me and my teacher for testing me on the words.”
The hardest word for Desormeaux? Sedge – a type of grass-like plant. She battled for minutes to work out the exact pronunciation. During that struggle, her grandma, Tina Traxler, was gripping herself so tightly that she thought she might leave a mark. She, and many others in the crowd, let out a sigh of relief when she successfully sounded the word out and nailed the spelling.
“I was very nervous, I thought I was going to peel my skin,” Traxler said. “She put in a lot more work this year. There were so many more words that there were some I had to look up because I didn’t even know how to pronounce them. This is super exciting.”
Seeing the excitement of the kids when they nail the spelling of a tough word or the pride on their faces when they claim their trophy is the biggest reason why Kankakee Valley REMC is proud to have sponsored the Regional Spelling Bee for the last 14 years.
“This is these kids basketball sectional or even the state championship,” said Dave Howell, Director of Member Relations at Kankakee Valley REMC. “This is their sport. The amount of time and effort they put into this is just unbelievable, and it really shows when they get up there and start spelling.”
Dr. Scott L. Simerlein has served as pronouncer for the Regional Bee ever since Kankakee Valley REMC started sponsoring it. He won the event himself in 1983 and knows just what the kids are feeling when they step up to the microphone and start spelling.
“For students with a passion for words, their origins, and derivations, this is one of the few places where they can act and excel on that passion and love,” he said. “It really gives these students a chance to shine.”
In addition to the chance to qualify for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which includes a full-paid trip, Desormeaux also earned a one-year subscription to Merriam-Webster Unabridged Online, a one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica Online, donated by Encyclopedia Britannica, and a $150 cash prize donated by Kankakee Valley REMC. They also awarded the second and third place students $75 and $50 prizes, respectively, and a $10 Wal-Mart gift card to every participant.