The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 17, 2014

Thomas Jefferson fourth-grader wins Joplin Globe spelling bee

The word was “elucubrate,” to work out or express by studious effort.

Then the word was “milacre,” an area equal to a thousandth of an acre.

And with those two correctly spelled words, Shrihari Nagarajan, a fourth-grader at Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School in Joplin, was declared the winner of the 37th annual Joplin Globe Spelling Bee.

Eighty-three students in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades competed Monday in the spelling bee, which was held at Thomas Jefferson. The top three were Shrihari; second-place winner Lainey Moran, a sixth-grader at St. Peter’s Middle School in Joplin; and third-place winner Bridgette Sutter, a sixth-grader at Cassville Middle School.

The four-hour bee lasted more than eight rounds. The second round proved to be the last for 34 spellers, eliminated on words such as “ogre,” “brawn” and “municipally.”

By the time the group had been pared to the top 11, eliminations were fewer and farther between: Only one speller was eliminated in the seventh round, which included words such as “cantankerous,” “babblative” and “luftmensch.”

Shrihari, who will turn 10 on Saturday, won the top spot in the contest by first correctly spelling the runner-up’s misspelled word, “elucubrate,” and then spelling a second word of his own, “milacre.” He seemed at ease at the microphone throughout the competition, tackling his words with the confidence of someone who knows his material.

“I’m a good speller, and I study a lot,” he said moments after clinching the trophy.

His mother, Padmavathi Mani, said his hard work and determination to win paid off.

“Every day, he studied for one hour, two hours, but the last two days, he studied 10 hours a day,” she said.

Clutching her own trophy after the competition, Bridgette said she was surprised by her third-place showing.

“I think I did a really good job,” she said. “I didn’t think I would get this far.”

Bridgette, a future author, said she prepared for the bee by making lists of the more difficult words she thought she would encounter, and studying them both independently and with her parents.

Lainey also said she was pleasantly surprised by her second-place finish, as were her parents. Words she spelled correctly included “mage” and “hepatitis.”

“She did catch some lucky breaks with some of the words she got,” said her mother, Annette Moran. “But she also spelled a few she had never seen before.”

Savannah Dillard, a sixth-grader at Thomas Jefferson and one of the final 11, was competing in her second Globe Spelling Bee.

“I’m a little nervous,” she said during a break between rounds, “but I find spelling fun. Spelling helps you understand words and language better.”

Savannah said she studied hard for the bee and sometimes asked others to quiz her. She used mnemonic devices to help her remember the proper spelling of tricky words, while words that contained silent letters made her think extra hard before spelling aloud.

But overall she said she felt prepared for the contest because of a habit that comes naturally to her.

“I love reading, and there are quite a few words in the spelling bee that are in books I read,” she said.

Globe Editor Carol Stark told the competitors at the start of the bee that their spelling skills would serve them well in an era in which it’s all too easy to rely on spell-checkers, autocorrection functions or abbreviations such as LOL (laugh out loud).

“That is not the real world,” she told them. “You are in the real world of spelling this morning.”

The bee was sponsored by TAMKO Building Products. Clayton Carnahan, an English instructor at Thomas Jefferson, served as the spellmaster. Judges were Bill Caldwell, Joplin Globe librarian, and Doug Spears, of TAMKO.

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