For more than half the time at last week’s Johnson County Spelling Bee, two fifth-graders dueled each other, matching word for word.
Like two literary prizefighters, Jacob Schauer of Custer Baker Intermediate School in Franklin and Faith Evans of Westwood Elementary School in Greenwood traded verbal punches.
They each spelled 33 words correctly as the last competitors, getting through words such as “government,” “idealize,” “propensity” and “obsidian.” They even misspelled the same words — “scholarly” and “usury.”
Finally, Faith misspelled “physics,” switching the “s” and the “y” in the word. The error gave Jacob an opening. He spelled the word and clinched the win by correctly spelling “secede.”
So Jacob was crowned king of this year’s event, conducted Tuesday at Webb Elementary School in Franklin. The event is sponsored by the Franklin Community Teachers Association and the Daily Journal.
But all 21 of the youngsters who competed were winners. After all, the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders had to win their respective school’s spelling bee just to compete at the county level.
The real prize, however, is not a trophy but a valuable tool that will stand the youngsters in good stead throughout their lives.
In an age of spellcheck programs, the ability to spell correctly might seem archaic and unnecessary. But anyone who has “scene” a memo or email littered with “miss used” words knows differently. A computer doesn’t “no” the difference.
That skill, though, just like any achievement exhibited in an athletics contest, is the result of study and practice.
After winning his school spelling bee, Jacob studied at least 45 minutes every day, including on the bus and after school, highlighting words he missed and writing them out, his mother, Betsy Anderson, said.
He misspelled “miso” in a countywide spelling bee in Florida last year. His family moved to Indiana from Florida before this school year. He said that loss made him want a win even more this year.
“Just the thought of winning got me through it,” Jacob said.
Spelling has come naturally for him, Anderson said. Jacob began reading when he was about 2. When he asked how a word was spelled, she sent him to a dictionary to look it up, his mother said.
Eventually, he began reading the dictionary whenever he didn’t know a word, Anderson said.
“I think he learned other words by doing that,” she said.
On stage Jacob confidently spelled each word he was given with no visible signs of the stage fright he said he was feeling.
“Those were some pretty tough words I didn’t know,” he said. “Most of them I thought I knew, but I didn’t know a couple of them.”
We congratulate Jacob, Faith and all the contestants in this year’s spelling bee. You are to be commended for your hard work.
And whether you were knocked out in the first round or the last, you have mastered a skill many of us envy and one that will earn you rewards far beyond elementary school.