News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 24, 2013

Woodrow Wilson’s Collins spells her way to Washington

7th grader takes Valley Regional Spelling Bee title with ‘notochord,’ ‘karaoke’

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Kimmie Collins and Addison Hughes dueled for more than 10 rounds in the waning moments of the 2013 Tribune-Star Wabash Valley Regional Spelling Bee.

The two finalists fist-bumped each other before they went head to head, with both aiming for the first place prize — an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee competition.

Collins is a seventh-grader at Woodrow Wilson Middle School, while Hughes is a student at Greencastle Middle School. He previously won the spelling bee in 2011.

While they wished each other well, both fought for gold, and the final rounds began.

Hughes spelled autopsy; Collins, sukiyaki.

Hughes, intractable; Collins, nougat.

Hughes, angstrom; Collins, furlough.

Throughout the spelling bee, Collins frequently asked judges to define the word, provide the language of origin or use the word in a sentence. Occasionally, she closed her eyes and tapped her arm as she spelled out a word.

Just when it seemed both spellers were just too good, Hughes finally tripped on metamorphosis, spelling it “metamorphisis.”

Collins then went on to correctly spell “notochord” and “karaoke.” And she is headed to Washington, D.C. May 28-30 for the National Spelling Bee.

“It feels amazing. I never thought I’d make it this far,” the beaming 13-year-old said after she won. “I can’t believe I’m in the National Spelling Bee.”

She’s practiced every day since mid-February with the help of parents, friends and her little sister, Katie. It’s Collins’ first appearance at the regional spelling bee.

As she and Hughes battled for first place, “It was really exciting because I knew I might win. But it was also really scary because I knew if I messed up, I’d be out,” she said.

In addition to spelling, her other interests include band — she plays the flute and alto sax.

Her parents are Mike and Debbie Collins.

“She’s just a very hard worker,” Mike Collins said. “She’s put in a lot of time and effort, and we’re so proud of her — we’re proud of both of our daughters.”

Asked about her big sister’s accomplishment, Katie said, “Awesome.”

The entire family will go to Washington, D.C. for the national bee. Expenses are covered for Kimmie and one chaperone. “I’m amazed and still a bit numb,” Kimmie’s dad said.

The Tribune-Star regional spelling bee drew 22 contestants from Wabash elementary and middle schools. Hughes was first runner up, while Benjamin Wilkerson of Tzouanakis Intermediate was second runner up.

Participating students won their individual school spelling bees.

The event took place at the Sarah Scott Middle School gym, with a large crowd of family and supporters.

“It was an incredible spelling bee,” said Courtney Zellars, the Tribune-Star’s bee coordinator.

The spell master was Sarah Shaneyfelt. The judges were David Myers, vice president of Terre Haute Savings Bank; Erin Smith, Tribune-Star retail advertising manager; and Christina Hewitt, marketing coordinator for Nelligan Sports Marketing at Indiana State University.

Sponsors are the Tribune-Star, Terre Haute Savings Bank and Woodburn Graphics.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or