It took the better part of Wednesday morning and into early afternoon for 60 exceptional spellers to be whittled down to one winner in the annual Spelling Bee.
When the final word, "incandescence" was spelled correctly by eighth grader Cameron Dennler, the Ralston gym erupted in applause and cheers for Cameron, second place finisher, Oliver, and third place finisher, Yasemin.
The spelling bee was organized by teachers Chris Saldivar and Angela Sveda. Now in its sixth year as a school-wide event, Saldivar explained that previously English teachers would hold individual bees in their classrooms.
"I thought it would be a good idea to have the whole school participate in one big spelling bee," said Saldivar.
The 60 participating students were selected by their English teachers---2 participants per class--and because there are more sixth graders at the school, there was a proportionately (spell that one) higher number of sixth grade contestants. For several students, this year's bee was their second or third competition at the school.
Saldivar and Sveda use the official Scripps National Spelling Bee list of words, complete with language of origin and definitions.
Students approached a singular microphone the middle of the gym floor and awaited their word, which was chosen at random. Sveda read the word and the student would have one chance to spell it correctly. Prior to spelling the word, the student was permitted to ask for a definition of the word and/or language of origin. The spelling bee contestants sat in rows of chairs on the gym floor. As they were eliminated they took new seats off to the side.
According to the Scripps website, the purpose of a school spelling bee is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts, and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.
Since Wednesdays are early dismissal days at Ralston, principal Jennifer Kollmann was beginning to think the bee might have had to be continued on Thursday morning. "So many kids are hanging in there and spelling the words correctly that we may need to finish it up tomorrow," said Kollmann. At noon, 11 students were still in the competition. But the pressure and long day of digging deep into their brains to recall the spellings of works like "diminutive," "isthmus", "battalion" and "hilarity" began taking their toll on the sixth, seventh and eighth grade contestants.
By about 12:10, contestants went down one by one in succession until only two remained---duking it out over words like "virulent," "commodore," and "perquisite."
In the final round, the winner needed to spell two words correctly, so when Cameron Dennler nailed it with "exteroceptor" and finally "i-n-c-a-n-d-e-s-c-e-n-c-e," he heaved a sigh of relieve and accepted congratulations from other contestants and the bee organizers. English teachers in the crowd seemed especially pleased with the students' performance.
Cameron and the second and third place finishers received a trophy and medal for their efforts. All spelling bee participants received an official Scripps Spelling Bee pin.