Moun­tain House 5th-grader re­peats as county spell­ing champ

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SCHOOL SCOOP - By Ni­cholas Fili­pas

STOCK­TON — Cham­pion, ch-a-m-p-i-o-n.

Eleven-year-old Ro­hin Prashanth can proudly claim that dis­tinc­tion as he claimed an­other first-place vic­tory as top speller in the 22nd An­nual San Joaquin County Spell­ing Bee.

The Wick­lund El­e­men­tary School fifth-grader of Moun­tain House out­lasted 14 fourththrough sixth-graders who earned a spot to com­pete Wed­nes­day at the San Joaquin County Of­fice of Ed­u­ca­tion. In to­tal, more than 80 stu­dents qual­i­fied to com­pete in the El­e­men­tary and Ju­nior High di­vi­sions.

Clutch­ing his first-place tro­phy, Prashanth was all smiles -and nearly out of breath.

“It feels awe­some,” he said af­ter tak­ing the top honor with his win­ning word “prosce­nium,” the part of a the­ater stage in front of the cur­tain.

Af­ter win­ning last year’s com­pe­ti­tion, he told The Record that he pre­pares by read­ing plenty of nov­els and mem­o­riz­ing long lists of words. While the words were harder this time around, his strat­egy didn’t change much.

“I can truly feel a dif­fer­ence be­cause I felt so much pres­sure on my­self that I had to win again,” said Prashanth. “(I) went with a faster pace this year.”

Prashanth and run­ner-up Ishaan Ajay, a fifth-grader from Brook­side El­e­men­tary in Stock­ton, earned a Barnes & No­ble gift card and both qual­ify for the Cal­i­for­nia State Spell­ing Bee Cham­pi­onship in May, to also be held at the SJCOE.

Stu­dents lis­tened care­fully to spell mas­ter Veray Wick­ham as she spelled out loud words like “restau­rant,” “truf­fles,” and “syl­la­ble,” words that be­came more dif­fi­cult af­ter each round with “guf­faws,” “jux­ta­po­si­tion” and “in­dige­nous.”

The el­e­men­tary di­vi­sion went on for 15 rounds be­fore Prashanth was named cham­pion again. If the stu­dents were ner­vous, so were their par­ents, many whom were seen hold­ing their breath and rub­bing their hands to­gether tightly.

Young spell­ers who were vis­i­bly up­set af­ter a pre­ma­ture exit from the com­pe­ti­tion were wel­comed with open arms by fam­ily to wipe the tears away.

Later in the ju­nior high com­pe­ti­tion,

Roocha Thatte didn’t be­lieve she would make it make it very far, ad­mit­ting that she hardly stud­ied the night be­fore.

So when she turned around in her seat to see only her­self and April Yan as the re­main­ing spell­ers, she was shocked.

“I didn’t get ready,” Thatte said mo­ments af­ter she was named the ju­nior high top speller. “I barely stud­ied in be­tween breaks at school and dur­ing classes and I thought I wasn’t go­ing to make it past two rounds.”

The 13-year-old eighth-grader from Wil­liams Mid­dle School in Tracy won on “ephemeral,” an ad­jec­tive to de­scribe some­thing that lasts for a very short time.

In a writ­ten test for­mat, she pow­ered through dozens of words, lis­ten­ing to Wick­ham spell out “odi­ous” “buoy­ant” and “de­crepit” with only 20 sec­onds to write each an­swer.

A fan of fan­tasy nov­els like “The Chron­i­cles of Nar­nia,” Thatte de­scribed how when she hears the word, she sep­a­rates it in her head and tries to spell out each syl­la­ble.

For not much of a game plan, some­thing worked. Spell­ing bees of­fer a unique chal­lenge to help “push me to over­come by fears of be­ing in front of peo­ple,” she said.

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