Students battled at the Monroe County Public Library Saturday afternoon in a competition that began with “shampoo” and ended in “carious.”
The IU Bee was one of many regional spelling bees across the country. These are the final rounds before the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., at the end of May. The IU Bee featured 28 students from Brown, Green, Monroe, Morgan and Owen counties.
Stakes were high and the competition was plentiful — each speller was their respective school’s champion — but in the end the win went to Daniel Larsen , a seventh-grader from Jackson Creek Middle School in Bloomington. His victory followed a back-and-forth bout between him and runner-up Tara Ganguly that began in the 10th round and extended long enough for the pronouncer to lose track of the number of exchanges.
Larsen admitted he only studied the provided word list for four hours after his last win. He said losing his school-wide spelling bee last year pushed him to practice for this year’s bee, but because he didn’t expect to make it this far, he didn’t know how he was going to celebrate.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” Larsen said. “I didn’t think I was going to win.”
Despite his modesty, Larsen was familiar with the origins of even a challenging word, “Bildungsroman.” Ganguly was last year’s regional champion and went to Washington, D.C.
In the second round of overtime, Ganguly mistook her first word, “humorous,” for the champion word, the final word to spell in the competition.
A look of excitement flashed across her face before reality set in, and she realized she needed to spell one more word. After she misspelled it, Larsen was back in the running.
They exchanged four more words before Larsen won on his championship word, “carious,” which describes area of decayed bone or tooth.
Ganguly is an eighth-grader at Tri-North Middle School, also in Bloomington, and her father, Sumit Ganguly, is a professor of political science at IU.
He said on one hand the competition is thrilling, but on the other it’s extremely stressful.
“Now the task is going to console her and remind her that there are disappointments in life,” he said.
Most competitors rushed through their words in the first round, though some took their time, wrote the word out invisibly on their hand and asked for the word to be used in a sentence.
Others were so sure of their spelling they returned to their seats before the bell rang to signal so. By the second round, words were difficult enough for relatives in the crowd to shake their heads in confusion.
Some words that received such responses were “hibachi,” “spitz” and “dugong”. The list also featured multiple words with Hawaiian origin: “kona,” “kahuna” and “muumuu.”
Larsen, whose trip to the national bee will be paid for by the Media School and School of Education, said he has yet to process the magnitude of his win. After the competition, he said he wasn’t ready to feel nervous.
“I’m still in shock,” he said.
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