Come Tuesday morning, the Grand National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., will be buzzing with activity, as 278 young men and women begin competition in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Among those competitors will be Dharani Kotekal. A 14-year-old eighth-grader at Indian Creek Junior High School, Kotekal advanced to the national bee by finishing first in the Jefferson County Regional Spelling Bee presented by Eastern Gateway Community College and the Herald-Star.
The daughter of Dr. Nagaraj and Jaya Kotekal earned her trip to the national event on March 10, when she calmly stood on the stage in the Buckeye North Elementary School Auditorium and correctly spelled "nativistic" to win the regional bee. As a result, she and her family will travel from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., on Amtrak through arrangements with Uniglobe Ohio Valley Travel of Wheeling.
Kotekal's competition will come from many parts of the world. This year's spellers will represent all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Somoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe, the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
Make no mistake, the bee is a serious competition, but one Kotekal is more than ready for. She competed in the national bee two years ago, making her one of 52 spellers who will be making their second appearance. This year's champion will receive $30,000 in cash and an engraved trophy from Scripps; a $2,500 U.S. Savings Bond and a complete reference library from Merriam-Webster; a $5,000 scholarship from the Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation; $2,600 in reference works, including the final print edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica and a lifetime membership to Britannica Online Premium; and an online language course and a Nook Color from Middlebury Interactive Languages.
Each participant receives at least a $100 gift card, and that's in addition to prizes they have already won. For instance, Huntington National Bank donated thousands of dollars in savings bonds to participants in our regional bee.
The event will be televised by ESPN, beginning with the preliminaries at at 8 a.m. Wednesday on ESPN3. Coverage moves to ESPN2 at 10 a.m. Thursday for the semifinals. The finals will air on ESPN beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday.
Kotekal will be one of 142 girls in the field. She is one of 111 eighth-graders and one of 67 14-year-olds in this year's competition. Her competitors range in age from 6 (one) to 15 (three), with Lori Anne Madison, a 6-year-old from Woodbridge, Va., being the youngest competitor in the history of the bee. The majority of spellers (193) attend public schools. Two spellers will be competing in the bee for the fifth time, four spellers for the fourth time and 14 spellers for the third time.
Other competitors from our region will include Michael Steven Reiner, an eighth-grader at Daw Middle School in Wellsville, and Marcus Larenz Clark, a sixth-grader at Martins Ferry Middle School.
Academic competitions, like the spelling bee, bring out the best in our young people. They require discipline and dedication of the participants, traits that will serve them well in their adult lives.
With that in mind, we congratulate Kotekal for her efforts and wish her well in this year's spelling bee.