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WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS: The final eight spellers wait to compete in the third round of the 2018 Grant County Spelling Bee at College Wesleyan Church on Tuesday. From left are Leo Hood, Andrew Kessler, Charlie Steele, Maddy Reynolds, Benjamin Pax, Evan Bishir, William Price and Drew Hawk.
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MR. BISHIR GOES TO WASHINGTON:Evan Bishir, Park Elementary School, smiles after correctly spelling “charlatan” to win the 2018 Grant County Spelling Bee at College Wesleyan Church on Tuesday.

BY Lucas Robinson - lrobinson@chronicle-tribune.com

Local schools have a new spelling bee champion to send to the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.

Evan Bishir, a fifth grader at Park Elementary School, came out on top at Tuesday’s spelling bee at Indiana Wesleyan University, going up against 70 fellow students from local elementary and junior high schools. With his win, Bishir will travel to the nation’s capital for the 91st Scripps National Spelling Bee, held May 29-31, at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Habor, Maryland.

Alan Miller, director of communications for Indiana Wesleyan University and the event’s MC, said this year’s spelling bee was one of the shortest ever held in Grant County.

Eight students progressed to the third round, and each of them missed their given word except for Bishir, who correctly spelled “poinsettia,” a red flower indigenous to Mexico commonly used in Christmas decorations. As the fourth round’s only contestant, Evan spelled his final word, “charlatan,” to become the day’s big winner.

“He’s been studying,” said Rachel Bishir, Evan’s mother. Evan Bishir and his coach, David Pyle, participated in Spell Bowl and watched the WIPB spelling bee to prepare for Tuesday’s event.

Bishir said he knew how to spell both “poinsettia” and “charlatan” and did not need to guess. This will be his first time traveling to Washington D.C.

In the past, spelling bees have turned into shoot-outs between a handful of contestants. Miller said one spelling bee several years ago even went 32 rounds before a winner was crowned.

However, Bishir’s swift win in the third and fourth rounds left the spelling bee with seven runner-ups, another anomaly for the spelling bee’s organizers.

The seven students who won runner-up are as follows: Leo Hood and Benjamin Pax of Park Elementary School, Andrew Kessler and Charlie Steele of Eastbrook Junior High School, Maddy Reynolds of Oak Hill Junior High School, and William Price and Drew Hawk of Northview Elementary School.

Runner-up is traditionally given a trophy and copy of a Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. While third through tenth place is rewarded with a $50 gift certificate to the IWU/Tree of Life bookstores. Miller said all seven second place finishers will be eventually given a trophy, dictionary and gift card.

The contest’s words, read out to students by IWU Professor of Teacher Education John McCracken, were collected by the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The first 300 words are given to schools beforehand for practice.

This year students were quizzed on words like “panzer,” “flotilla,” “maelstrom,” “automaton,” “terrapin,” “lithe,” and “Wagnerian.” Notably, a number of Latin American foods were read out, including “empanada,” “enchilada,” “chimichanga,” “quesadilla,” and “chalupa.”

Of the 70 students participating, 23 moved on to Round 2, with the remaining eight runner-ups moving onto Round 3.

Miller, who has worked with the spelling bee under the sponsorship of both IWU and the Chronicle-Tribune, supported the value of spelling in our technological, modern world.

“Spelling has become too easy with spell check,” Miller said. “We think it’s a desirable skill to understand.”