Months of practice paid off for some area high school students Monday night as teams from across the state took part in the Indiana Academic Spell Bowl.
The first round of the Spell Bowl took place in high schools across the state as students spelled words and accumulated points to qualify for the state finals in November.
Locally, students competed at Gavit High School in Hammond and Portage High School.
The Spell Bowl consisted of 10 rounds. Students had 15 seconds to write the word, and then earned a point for each correct spelling.
“The emcee gets the word list and audio CD a week before, so they know how to pronounce it,” said Elizabeth Gilfillan, the host coordinator at Portage High School. “That’s how he knows exactly how to say it, and that’s how the state standardizes it.”
The state sends the list of words and a computer file used during the competition so all of the schools across the state are using the same list of words. Some words included Venezuela, gibberish, auspicious, munificence and precarious.
“My words were difficult,” Eric Cender, a student at Valparaiso High School said, who competed at Portage High School. "You really have to think quickly and go with your first instinct to what the word is, and you just wait to see if you got it right or not.”
“This was my first spelling competition,” said Mackenzie Trott, also from Valparaiso High School. She competed in the ninth round, and said her hardest word to spell was mulligatawny.
“My whole team was really encouraging, and it’s a really positive atmosphere here.”
Mariah Lopez was an alternate for LaPorte’s team, but decided to support her teammates.
“I was rooting for them; I kept screaming their name and clapped for them. I congratulated them when they did a good job,” Lopez said.
Schools compete in four classes based on enrollment, and were competing against teams across the state. Top teams from each class advance to the state finals Nov. 10 at Purdue University.
“Every year it’s different,” LaPorte coach John Sherrick said, regarding what scores are high enough to make it to the finals. “There’s been years where our score (50) would qualify, and other years where it hasn’t.”