Competition proves s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g is no small task

Photos by Nic Antaya/The Herald
The Cedar Crest Intermediate School sixth-grade team celebrates after the Indiana Academic Spell Bowl Elementary Division at Cedar Crest Intermediate School on Thursday. The school won first place in both the Green and Red Class. For more photos from the competition, click here.


BRETZVILLE — In a text-message world running on autocorrect, how would you fare without spelling assistance?

Leo Widolff, a sixth-grader at Cedar Crest Intermediate, spelled a near-perfect round during Thursday night’s elementary spell bowl contest hosted at the Bretzville school. He missed just one pesky word — wholesaler.

His father, Matt, played along from the stands. He spelled all the words in Leo’s round correctly. But after hearing Dad missed six of the competition’s 56 total words, Leo saw room for improvement.

“He could have done better,” a grinning Leo said of Matt’s overall performance.

During Thursday’s contest at Cedar Crest, members of teams from nine area elementary schools were called one by one to desks on the gymnasium floor to write down the correct spellings of seven words. Eight students from each team participated. Teams were separated into classes based on enrollment and whether or not sixth-graders were on their rosters.

The Herald distributed notepads and pens to five audience volunteers and asked them to do their best. None of them earned a perfect score, nor did a certain Herald reporter. But please, don’t tell his editors.

The annual competition is packed with words that stump kids from Dubois County and hundreds of schools across Indiana. As we learned last night, penning the correct spellings is no small task for family members who tag along to cheer on their students, either.

“I think we’ve gotten too used to computers with spellcheck,” said Steve Chambers of Holland. His granddaughter, Kali Chambers, competed on the Holland Elementary team. “If you make a mistake, you don’t worry about it because it’s going to catch it for you. Underline it in red ... it’s going to tell you, you’ve got a booboo here.”

Matt correctly spelled 50 words, while Steve worked with a group of nearby adults and got 34 right.

Ireland Elementary School fifth-grader Ervin Williams spells a word during the Indiana Academic Spell Bowl Elementary Division at Cedar Crest Intermediate School in Bretzville on Thursday. Ervin had a perfect score. "He actually wanted to wear a tuxedo, but ended up with a suit," Cassie Williams said about her son's attire. For more photos from the competition, click here.

Jasper resident Barbara Schipp notched 48 perfect spellings. Her granddaughter, Caroline, earned a perfect score for Ireland Elementary in her round in the spotlight.

“I actually thought it was easier (than anticipated),” Barbara said of her spell bowl experience. “I just messed it up. Those double letters, I wrote them and I’d scratch them out second-guessing.”

Mark Dilger, father of Cedar Crest sixth-grader Hattie Dilger, was also tripped up by the repeat letters in words like questionnaire, caffeine and surveillance. He, too, missed eight words.

“I don’t think about it (spelling) too often, really,” Mark said. “I think I spell pretty well. And once the red underline shows up … I right-click, and it fixes. That’s taken over a lot.”

Also participating in The Herald’s exercise was Amelia Widolff, Matt’s daughter and Leo’s sister. She is a fifth-grader at Cedar Crest and correctly scored 41 of the words.

“It was kind of fun,” Amelia said, adding it was harder than she thought. She has a new appreciation for how tough it is for the kids who do participate.

So does Herald reporter Allen Laman, who dropped the ball on five words en route to a 51-point finish. He misspelled raccoon, Yosemite, lacquer, delicacy, and questionnaire. If this is his last byline, well, you know why.

The adult participants who played along said spell bowl is valuable because it boosts kids’ confidence, strengthens their memory and builds their vocabulary.

“I think the camaraderie with their teammates is good for them,” said Cedar Crest coach Terri Bell. “And just having the determination to practice and to get better each week and being committed to the team and committed to practicing is good experience for them.”

She can tell by the looks on the participants’ faces that when they spell a word right, it feels good.


Complete results from Thursday night’s competition are listed below. A list of the top 10 overall team scores in the state will soon be released on the Indiana Association of School Principals’ website. There is no state competition for the spell bowl elementary contest.


Orange Class

For the second straight year, Ireland Elementary earned the highest score of the night at the local contest and placed at the top of the Orange Class with 52 correct spellings. Team members Harshal Basra, Emma Emerson, Caroline Schipp, Ervin Williams and Victoria Gunselman all had perfect scores. Other team members included Sonali Rathee, Dylan Durcholz, Brooke Williams, Ayla Elkins, Jack Gudorf and Reagan Hopf. Coaches were Amber Hoffman and Ashley O’Connor.

Tenth Street Elementary was the runner-up in the Orange Class with 47 correct spellings. Nicolas Aguilera and Johnson Dong notched perfect scores. Camden Bonner, Breonia Brackeny, Shawna Fredrickson, Kayle Guardado, Jovie Huddleston, Quentin Hutchinson, Tristan King, Cole Leinenbach, Vanessa Ramirez and Mackenzie Walsh also competed on the team. Coaches included Kirsten Prechtel and Hayley Morin.

With 36 correctly spelled words, third place in the Orange Class went to Huntingburg Elementary. The team was comprised of Maya Anderson, Gabe Dubon, Payton Ferguson, Broghan Fuhs, Sam Gasser, Jeremy Linn, Alan Melara, Lucy Soto, Aiden Stahl, Parker Steckler and Cecelia Young. The group was coached by Christine Mears and Lori Barnett.

Green Class

In the Green Class, Cedar Crest’s green team earned first place with 49 correct spellings. Ella Hopf and Sophie Kluesner each had perfect rounds. Addison Schipp, Andrew Verkamp, Bryson Frick, Charlie Hasenour, Claire Ruppe, Hattie Dilger, Leo Widolff, Mallory Crowley, Olivia Bell and Will Hasenour also competed on the team. Terri Bell and Abby Rogier served as coaches.

Second place in the Green Class went to Holy Trinity Catholic School. The group had 42 correct spellings. Addison Schnell and Ryan Roettger notched perfect rounds. Other team members included Madelyn Knies, Sawyer Reckelhoff, Tori Hemmerlein, Sara Vaughn, Holden Bastien, Sam Kraft, Elliot Rolwing, Sam Shappard, Levi Welp, Leo Wolf and William Temple. The team was coached by Debbie Kieffner and Dana Buechlein.

Red Class

In the Red Class, Cedar Crest’s red team took home first place with 40 accurate spellings. Bree Morrison spelled all seven of her words correctly. Team members also included Mark Black, Marissa Bolden, Camden Cole, Grace Englert, Alex Fischer, Maddox Geyer, Cadan Hartley, Riley Hinson, Carson Jacob, Addison Schneider and Gavin Winkler. Bell and Rogier also coached the red team.

Holland Elementary placed second in the Red Class with 36 correct words. Izzy Leibering and Molly Keusch notched perfect rounds. Addison Weaver, Kali Chambers, Danyel Ellerbusch, Riley Blessinger, Laney Bardwell, Jaylynn Goodwin and Alex Hendrix also competed on the team. Coaches were Madeline Stilwell and Whitney Keown.

With 28 correct spellings, third place in the Red Class went to Cannelton Elementary. Petersburg Elementary and Winslow Elementary were slated to compete in the class, but could not attend the event because Pike County Schools were closed Thursday due to icy roads.

Blue Class

Perry Central Elementary and William Tell Elementary competed in the contest’s Blue Class. William Tell’s team spelled 47 words correctly, while Perry Central’s team had 25 accurate spellings.

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