VALPARAISO │ During a close basketball game, seventh-grader Dheven Unni admits to a bout of nervousness and “clammy hands” – similar to how he felt Saturday at Wheeler High School.
But Dheven wasn’t on a basketball court. He was competing at the Lake/Porter County District Spelling Bee, and he overcame those nerves to take second place and earn a trip to the next round.
Dheven and 20 other students in third through eighth grades took part in the county spelling bee that is a bridge between the school spelling bee level and a state final spelling bee March 9, where the champion speller will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.
“This is an important competition,” said Scott L. Simerlein, spelling bee pronouncer. “It shows a lot of care and academic excellence to be here today.”
The top 10 winners from Saturday’s competition will move on to the March 9 round, also at Wheeler High School, where they will face finalists from the LaPorte County bee. The top three students won trophies as well.
Placing first Saturday was seventh-grader Sean Ives, of Trinity Lutheran School in Crown Point.
“I’m pretty excited,” he said.
Taking third was Nicole Libiran, a seventh-grade student at Col. John Wheeler Middle School in Crown Point.
“You feel a lot of pride in it,” she said.
Dheven, who attends Forest Ridge Academy in Schererville, said one of his hardest words in the contest – and one he got right – was “hors d’oeuvre.”
“I read the dictionary a lot,” he said.
The seven other finalists moving on to the March 9 competition are Kelechi Echeumuna, Aquinas Catholic Elementary School; Janiya Bates, Benjamin Franklin Academy School; Wyatt Lee, Chesterton Middle School; Camila Flores, St. Michael School; Ja’Mysha Carter, St. Stanislaus School; Mariah Villaroman, St. Thomas More School; and Anisha Kondamuri, Wilbur Wright Middle School.
Local utility membership cooperative Kankakee Valley REMC is sponsoring the Lake/Porter and LaPorte spelling bees for the fifth year. Spokeswoman Amanda Steeb said the REMC is strongly committed to supporting education and the spelling bees are a perfect accompaniment to its commitment to community by educating youths.
“Students competing in this bee practice diligently in hopes of winning the chance to go to Washington, D.C., and compete nationally,” she said.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee will take place May 26 to June 1.