News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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March 22, 2014

REPEAT: Kimmie Collins wins Wabash Valley Regional Spelling Bee again

TERRE HAUTE — After 52 rounds and about three and a half hours, eighth grader Kimmie Collins jumped with joy Saturday when she realized that she had, for the second year in a row, won the Tribune-Star Wabash Valley Regional Spelling Bee, now in its 31st year.

Although Kimmie had to think carefully before spelling abactor (definition: “One that steals cattle”) — one of the last words she had to spell before the end of the spelling bee — she was quick to use another big word to describe her feelings after winning: “Euphoria.”

“I’m so excited. I felt so nervous during those last rounds,” Kimmie said just after the bee at Sarah Scott Middle School. She advances to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. in May.

During the last eight rounds, Kimmie, 14, of Woodrow Wilson Middle School faced intense competition from another strong speller: her younger sister, Katie Collins, 10. The fifth grader at DeVaney Elementary School took first runner up, while 13-year-old Ravnit Kaur Singh of Honey Creek Middle School was second runner up.

Although it was a bit “scary” competing with her older sister and last year’s winner, Katie said “it’s also a challenge for me.”

“I’m so proud of my sister,” Kimmie said. Describing Katie as “determined,” Kimmie said she is sure that Katie will be back next year.

More than 100 people — parents, grandparents, teachers and siblings — watched 20 elementary and middle school students from 20 area schools compete in the spelling bee, collectively spelling more than 300 words. Students from as far away as Greencastle, Paris, Ill., and Robinson, Ill., traveled to Terre Haute to compete.

Prizes for the first and second runner ups included a $50 savings bond, Spelling Bee Supplement Book and a plaque of achievement.

Kimmie Collins, the grand prize winner, received an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. for a chance to compete for the title of Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion. Last year, she tied for 43rd place in the national competition, competing against 280 other students. She said she aims to improve that finish this year.

Kimmie also received a plaque of achievement, a traveling trophy for her school and a Merriam-Webster Third International Dictionary, among other prizes.

Merriam-Webster, one of the event’s sponsors, donated dictionaries for the winners. The judges were Mark Wright, a retired English teacher; Jerry Bingle, Tribune-Star controller; and Debbie Hadley, of Providence Medical Center. Indiana State University Professor Donald Jennermann, served as Spell Master.

“Each student you see here is the selected representative of their school, so they should take pride in reaching this level,” said Tad Wesley, spelling bee coordinator and Newspapers in Education Manager at the Tribune-Star.

“Every child you see here today is an excellent speller, and we are happy to have them,” he continued to tell the audience.

So excellent were the spellers that this year’s Regional Spelling Bee — part of the Scripps National Spelling Bee — had 52 rounds, the most it has ever had since it began in the early 1980s, organizers said.

At one point in the competition, none of the six remaining students were eliminated for at least 10 rounds. In these rounds, the Collins sisters and Ravnit Singh battled against 11-year-old Stephen Kallubhavi of Riley Elementary School; 10-year-old Ella Gallagher from St. Patrick School; and one of the youngest spellers, 9-year-old Sujay Karki of Dixie Bee Elementary School.

But by round 44, only Kimmie and Katie remained.

The sisters, who have spent many hours quizzing each other and playing spelling games at home, wore matching orange and purple T-shirts with the words, “Team Collins.” Their “extremely proud” parents, Debbie and Mike Collins — who also wore Team Collins shirts — said their kids worked very hard to win. While there was rivalry between the sisters, there was also camaraderie.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Debbie Collins said. “They tease each other but they also support each other and help each other.”

“It’s been a team effort,” she said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@tribstar.com.

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