Herald Photo / Dean Hockney
WINNER  — Anastasia Spahr spells the winning word during the North Central Indiana Regional Spelling Bee on Tuesday.
Herald Photo / Dean Hockney WINNER — Anastasia Spahr spells the winning word during the North Central Indiana Regional Spelling Bee on Tuesday.
There was no anomaly to crowning a champion of the North Central Indiana Regional Spelling Bee; but in the end, an anomaly won. 

Anastasia Spahr entered the event as the odds-on favorite to win, and after spelling “anomaly” correctly in the 22nd round, she earned her second trip to the national finals.

“It is cool,” said the calm and collected champ. “It is amazing to win again. It is a big deal.”

Spahr, an eighth-grader at Maconaquah Middle School, won the regional title as a fifth-grader in 2014 before finishing as the runner-up the past two years. In her final appearance in Spelling Bee competition, she spelled “interrupt” correctly in the first round before rattling off 21 more correct answers to qualify for the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md.

“I am glad I could compete (in the regionals) all four years.  That is not an opportunity everyone has. I am grateful for that,” said Spahr, who also plays the piano and oboe and will be a member of the Marching Braves this fall at Maconaquah High School. “It was discouraging the last two years to get so close, especially after having won as a fifth-grader; there was a little more incentive this year.”

Spahr said she also is thankful she had parents who allowed her the time needed to prepare for her spelling bee competitions. The regional competitors qualified by winning their schools’ spelling bee, so studying the entry list of words was a necessity.

“It really depends. Sometimes I study an hour a day on the words,” she said. “I have been studying a lot for this one. I have studied the regional words since the fifth grade, and since they use the same words, I know them well. But there is always a chance we could go off-list, like we had to do the last two years.” 

Twenty-one competitors stood before four judges and 200 audience members at the North Central Indiana Regional, held in the Kresge Auditorium on the campus of Indiana University Kokomo. Listening to the calm and reassuring voice of word pronouncer Josh Rockey, associate professor of communications at Ivy Tech Community College, two competitors fell in the first round and four more in the second, missing on such words as mosque, bruin, stucco and kona. 

By the fourth round, the field was trimmed to nine. After Alayna Earle (North Miami sixth-grader) misspelled “hawthorn,” and Isabella Rogers (Northwestern eighth-grader) stumbled on “isobar” in the sixth round, the Final Four was set with Spahr, David Hoshaw (Acacia Academy eighth-grader), Evan Mink (Eastern eighth-grader), and Kathryn Wong (Northwestern fifth-grader).

Hoshaw tripped on the word “percolate” in the 11th round, and Mink missed “diphthong” in round 20. After spelling 20 consecutive words correctly, Wong could not get “coffle,” and when Spahr spelled “anomaly” correctly, she earned her second Samuel Louis Sugarman Award, which includes a 2017 United States Mint proof set, a $25 Amazon gift card and one-year subscriptions to Britannica Online Premium and to Merriam-Webster Unabridged Online.

Spahr will make her second expenses-paid trip to the national finals, with Bee Week set for May 29 through June 3. All 50 states and several countries will be represented at the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center.

“I am looking forward to a second opportunity,” said Spahr of qualifying for the nationals. “And I enjoy socializing with people. I will be on the top this year since I am in the eighth grade.”

The four judges, who listened intently to every letter pronounced, included DeAndra Beard (founder and CEO of Beyond Borders Language Learning Center), Kevin Bostic (president of Ivy Tech’s Logansport campus), Dr. Tom McKaig (retired school superintendent), and Dr. Susan Sciame-Giesecke (IU Kokomo chancellor). Ivy Tech and IU Kokomo jointly sponsored the Spelling Bee.

“This is a great thing for us to get involved in and help promote education in our youth,” said Bostic. “We are a community college, so we want to support these types of events that help students learn life skills. It is one thing to spell. It is one thing to spell out loud and one thing to spell out loud in front of judges; the skills that these kids get by participating are vital as they move into the middle schools and high schools.”

Other regional qualifiers included: Bella Allee (sixth grade at Blair Pointe Upper Elementary School), Madison Campbell (sixth grade at Caston Elementary School), Jasmine Johnson (sixth grade at Central Middle International School), Kaiden Lucero (sixth grade at Columbia Middle School in Logansport), Annah Bailey (fifth grade at Eastern Elementary School), A.J. Burkhalter (sixth grade at Howard Elementary School), Abby Jordan (fifth grade at Maconaquah Elementary School), Lawrence Lewis (seventh grade at Maple Crest Middle School), Caytlin Flood (eighth grade at North Miami Middle School), Rylee Bray (eighth grade at Peru Junior High School), Logan Colburn (eighth grade at Redeemer Lutheran School), Kenadi Waymire (eighth grade at Rochester Community Middle School), Luke Mawbey (sixth grade at Sts. Joan of Arc & Patrick School), Krishi Patel (fifth grade at Taylor Elementary School), Ashton Justice (fifth grade at Western Intermediate School), and Dylan Collins (seventh grade at Western Middle School).