Tonica, Lostant students among those competing
OTTAWA — After an intense 17 rounds of competition, Waltham Elementary’s Riker Fesperman won the 59th annual LaSalle, Marshall & Putnam Counties Regional Spelling Bee on Saturday, Feb. 9.
Thirty-three of the region’s most capable spellers gathered on the stage at Ottawa Township High School to compete for awards and the chance to advance to the Grand Finals, which will be held in Peoria at the WEEK-TV studios on at 1 p.m. on March 22.
“I like sports and this is just as exciting, there’s a real nervousness in the air. This is a fun day, and it’s always great to highlight academics and honor all of the hard work and achievements of our students,” Regional Superintendent Chris Dvorak said before the contest began.
After allowing the students to settle in on stage, both Dvorak and pronouncer Rick Koshko addressed them to go over the rules and provide helpful advice and tips. Following a practice round consisting of students spelling the first word in the name of their school, the competition was underway.
Five students exited in the first round; five in the second; eight in the third; one in the fourth; three in the fifth; and just one left in the sixth through ninth rounds. The remaining four students all made it safely through the 10th round, but two more were gone by the end of the 12th.
Lostant Elementary eighth-grader Makenzie Chambers fell victim to the silent “g” in “gnat” and she exited in the first round.
Putnam County Junior High seventh-grader Neveah Goulding, seated in the first seat in the first row, successfully spelled “zero” and “accesses,” but was unfortunately one of the many eliminated in the third round after misspelling “finale.”
Tonica sixth-grader Phillip Gray went the furthest of the nearby local students. He made it to the seventh round before making an error while spelling “gordita.” His prior rounds consisted of the following words: library, alcove, stucco, fiery, albatross and galleria.
The final two competitors were Fesperman, an eighth-grader who placed second last year, and Corrine Francis, an eighth-grader from Ottawa’s Shepherd Middle School. The bee lasted five more rounds with the tension increasing word by word until Francis misspelled “accommodate” and Fesperman returned to the mic to correctly spell “egalitarian.”
Fesperman’s word list for the bee consisted of the following: orange, hurricane, polymer, leotard, incorruptible, clementine, confetti, orthodox, buccaneer, libretto, geisha, boudoir, obsequious, tortoni, taj, Geronimo and egalitarian.
He credited his success to a slow and steady delivery style, intently studying the provided word lists, imagining those words appearing on a screen or at a typewriter, randomizing them and giving extra focus to those words misspelled during practice sessions.
The competition was sponsored by the Ottawa Kiwanis Club and the Regional Office of Education. First prize included plaques, $200, a $50 gift certificate to Prairie Fox Books and an additional, traveling plaque which will be displayed at Waltham Elementary for the year.
For second place, Francis was awarded two plaques, $100 and a $50 gift certificate to Prairie Fox Books.
While on stage before the event began, Dvorak reminded the students that even if they were eliminated in early rounds, they “should all be very proud” of themselves because they’d already distinguished themselves just by making it the regional finals.