SMS brings home state spell bowl title

Photo provided


HUNTINGBURG — When professional sports teams win championships, city streets flood with fans when the players return home. You’ll hear emotional speeches from the athletes. Catch glimpses of grown men crowd surfing. Maybe even hear them sing or rap.

It happens on the local level, too. High school teams often return from postseason matchups accompanied by fire trucks from local departments that escort them throughout Dubois County.

Last week, days after earning their first Indiana Academic Spell Bowl Junior Division state title in school history, members of the Southridge Middle School team had their own parade. Spellers on the 14-student team walked through the building’s packed hallways, smacked high-fives and celebrated with their fellow Raiders.

“To be those people, it’s pretty amazing,” said SMS spell bowler Ruthie Sherer. “Because you’d never expect an academic team to do that.”

Jen Schutte, the school’s spell bowl coach, said the march through school was a positive way to support academics. The state finals competition took place at Purdue University in West Lafayette on Saturday, Nov. 10.

Raider spellers accurately spelled 54 of 72 words in Class C at the contest, beating out Hobart’s River Forest Middle School (46 correct spellings), Greentown’s Eastern Middle School (41 correct spellings), nearby Heritage Hills Middle School (39 correct spellings) and Greencastle Middle School (36 correct spellings).

The five teams listed above were the top scorers at preliminary area competitions. Forty-eight total teams competed in those across Indiana late last month, with a shot at going to state on the line.

Like the local area spell bowl — Southridge was named the overall winner at that local event in October — the state competition was broken into eight rounds with nine words a piece. A different speller from each team rotated into the spotlight each round.

Raider team members included eighth-graders Gabe Boeglin, Garrison Sickbert, Jazmin Uresti, Joselyn Uresti and Macaila Wilkins; seventh-graders Abi Byrd, Erika Candelario and Ruthie Sherer; and sixth-graders Ellie Bardwell, Jack Boeglin, Nicole Fant, Michael Lau and Eli Meyer.

Sherer and Fant both notched perfect rounds at state in which they accurately spelled all nine of their words, and Uresti missed only one en route to a near-perfect score during her time in the spotlight.

SMS qualified for the state finals for the first time in 2015. The highest place the team had earned before its championship this year was third in 2016.

Schutte said she is proud of the team because members recognized they could perform better at the state contest than they did at the local one. Raider spellers penned only 33 words correctly at that competition. The team buckled down and worked hard in the 10 days between the two contests, she said.

“They knew they had one more chance to do it, and they performed at their ability levels,” Schutte said. “Which shows. Which is great, because I’m so proud of them. And their hard work and determination was rewarded for them.”

SMS spellers practiced two mornings a week before school in the months leading up to the contest. During that time, they studied a list of 1,614 words.

Southridge also received an appreciated fire truck escort on their way back to Huntingburg, but the in-school walk of champions parade is Schutte’s favorite memory of the season. Most people don’t know much about spell bowl. But that day, every kid in the school knew their fellow classmates were state champs.

At the high school level of the state finals, Northeast Dubois also competed in the Class 4 competition. The team did not place.

More on