Seventh grader Daniel Larsen withstood 20 rounds of competition to win the IU Bee, the regional spelling contest of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, at the Monroe County Public Library Saturday.
Larsen, who attends Jackson Creek Middle School, will advance to the national competition in Washington, D.C., area in May.
“The last few days, I probably spent four hours every day studying the word lists,” Larsen said after his win. “I’m really excited to go to Washington. I’ve never gotten to go there before.”
Larson competed against 28 other spellers, including last year’s winner and two-time runner up Tara Ganguly, to win on the word “carious.” He and Ganguly dueled for nine rounds with words such as exacerbate, virgule, bildungsroman and fusillade.
The standing room only crowd in the library auditorium included parents, siblings and friends of the spellers.
“We were nail biters out in the audience,” said Daniel’s mother, Ayelet Lindenstrauss Larsen. “Since he won the school competition, we’ve been quizzing him with the lists all week. I was very nervous watching him finish, but I was very impressed. I didn’t even know how to spell some of the words.”
Sponsored by The Media School and the School of Education, the IU Bee serves as the regional contest for students who won bees in their schools in Brown, Greene, Monroe, Morgan and Owen counties.
High School Journalism Institute director Teresa White and School of Education communication director Scott Witzke oversee the bee. Several Media School Ambassadors and students from the School of Education’s Dean’s Advisory Council helped set up the auditorium and directed the spellers off and on the stage.
Judges included Gena Asher, the school’s digital content manager/web editor; Gary Crow, executive associate dean of the IU School of Education; and Anne Kibbler, the school’s director of communications and media relations. Edgewood High School English teacher Larry DeMoss served as the event’s pronouncer.
The sponsors pay for travel and lodging for the winner and one parent or guardian to attend the national contest.
Larsen also receives a 2017 United States Mint Proof Set, a one-year online Britannica Premium subscription and a one-year subscription to Merriam-Webster unabridged online dictionary.
Daniel competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee May 29-31 and advanced through the third round of spelling.
“The good news was that Daniel spelled his Round 3 word, ‘somnolence,’ correctly,” his mother, Ayelet Lindenstrauss Larsen, reported from Washington, D.C.
However, Daniel didn’t make it to the final. The 40 finalists were selected based on their scores in both the spelling rounds and a written test. The score needed to qualify was 29, and Daniel scored 26, Larsen said.
“I honestly think I got a bit unlucky on the test,” Daniel said. “I could have done better, but I don’t know if I could have got three more answers right.”
After the second round of spelling, a reporter from the Associated Press interviewed Daniel about his crossword expertise, Larsen said. Daniel is the youngest person ever to have a crossword accepted for publication in The New York Times. The story appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune.
Overall, Daniel said being at the spelling bee has been exciting.
“The actual spelling itself was a bit stressful, but it was very fun,” he said.