Winning the Sedgwick County Spelling Bee requires knowledge of a menagerie of words.
It’s only fitting that the winning word in this year’s spelling bee was “thesaurus.”
Conor Reid-Tedesco, 12, cracked a little smile as he spit out the “u-s,” air-spelling the word in the palm of his left hand as he spoke.
The eighth-grader at Wichita Collegiate School said he did not imagine he would make it to the finals, much less win the competition, but when the final round started, he was determined.
“I said, ‘It’s time to do this,’ ” Conor said.
Conor, who first won Wichita Collegiate’s spelling bee, will advance to a state bee in March.
He was the best of a small group of spellers – the 2015 Sedgwick County Spelling Bee was smaller than it has been in recent years, said organizer John Hammans. The bee, which was held at Kapaun Mount Carmel High School, featured 23 students representing 19 different schools in Sedgwick County. It was open to first- through eighth-graders.
“It went fast with such a small group,” Hammans said. “Not everyone who actually registered was here today, but you know, you celebrate those who are here.”
Hammans said he laments the decline in participation in local spelling bees over the years. As the event’s organizer, he said, he accepts some responsibility.
“It’s hard to get the word out to all the schools,” he said. “I send e-mails to USD 259, the Catholic schools, Independent, Collegiate, but everyone is busy.”
Hammans said he thinks it is important to celebrate the achievements of students who participate in spelling bees.
“I just really do believe it’s important to celebrate their victories in the classroom as much as on the athletic field,” Hammans said. “I think every opportunity you have to celebrate the minds of our young people, we should do it.”
Joe Bijoy, 11, walked away with a third-place trophy at the bee after being eliminated for spelling “plausible” with an extra “a.”
Because he is a sixth-grader at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School, Joe will have two more opportunities to compete at the spelling bee. He said he will participate again next year.
“I got a little nervous, because I had studied a different list,” he said. “Choosing the words to study is difficult.”
The Sunflower Spelling Bee, a competition featuring winners from 79 Kansas counties, will be March 7 at Fort Hays State University.