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Friday, Mar. 07, 2014

Johnson County spellers move on to state bee

Special to The Star


Top spellers

Eight Johnson County students earned spots in the statewide Sunflower Spelling Bee:

Praneeth Akkineni, Oak Hill Elementary

Evelyn Chang, Lakewood Middle School

Ellie Green, Indian Hills Middle School

Sharan Satish Kumar, Overland Trail Middle School

Kushi Madduru, Cedar Hills Elementary

Sam Phipps, Monticello Trails Middle School

Cora Selzer, Indian Woods Middle School

Asruth Suryanarayanan, Morse Elementary

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Ellie Green loves to spell.

The Indian Hills Middle School eighth-grader’s natural flair for piecing letters together has earned her a spot in the Sunflower Spelling Bee this morning.

Last month, she was named the first-place winner of the Johnson County Spelling Bee, nailing her final word, “olestra.”

Ellie and the other top seven county bee contestants will participate in the state Sunflower Spelling Bee today at Fort Hays State University. The winner will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., this spring.

The Olathe News and the Olathe School District co-sponsor a separate spelling bee for public and private students in the school district’s boundaries. Vanya Shivashankar won that contest — and a spot in the National Spelling Bee — in February.

Ellie said she’ll need more than just talent to make it to the top.

The Prairie Village teen practices spelling nearly every single day after school, using computer programs and flash cards. She studies not only spelling, but word origin, word patterns and definitions.

“There’s definitely a lot more that goes into it than just the actual spelling,” Ellie said. “It’s pretty hard, but I like it.”

She became interested in competitive spelling several years ago, when she noticed herself excelling at spelling tests in school. Her interest increased over the years when she began writing short stories and poems in her free time.

Her dedication and voluntary time spent practicing has impressed her biggest fans, her parents.

“We’re very proud of her and it still amazes us how well she does each year,” said her dad, Geoff Green. “She takes it very seriously, which is impressive. She’s a natural.”

Another local speller at the state bee will be Cora Selzer, an eighth-grader from Indian Woods Middle School, who ranked eighth at the Johnson County Spelling Bee.

“I study online lists and read fairly difficult books every night, which is a big help,” she said. “I love to read and that has helped expand my vocabulary.”

Despite being well-prepared, Cora admitted that spelling in the county bee was a nerve-wracking experience.

“I was shaking on stage,” she said, with a laugh. “It was a challenge to spell through the terror of standing in front of a bunch of people. But I think the nerves helped me focus because it got my adrenaline moving.”

When the Overland Park teen realized she had made it to the state competition, she jumped off stage and immediately hugged her proud father in the audience.

“I’m thrilled. But you know if I don’t win at the state level, I’ll be disappointed, but I’ll still be happy that I made it this far,” she said. “I’m excited to just be there because I love watching the other spellers in action. A lot of them are amazing.”

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