Richmond Student Headed to Scripps Regional Spelling Bee

Richmond Student Headed to Scripps Regional Spelling Bee

         When Atharva Deodhar heard his fifth grade class was holding an entry level round of the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee, he began studying his vocabulary list every evening, determined to prepare himself for the challenge even though it meant more homework than usual.

         The extra effort paid off.  Deodhar, a student at Richmond Street School in El Segundo, never misspelled a single word in two competitions, including a finalist round against the winners from each fifth grade class at Richmond.  As a result he will now compete against students from throughout southern California in the Los Angeles County Scripps Regional Spelling Bee.

         "I feel sort of nervous," says Deodhar.  "I was surprised I had won.  I had no idea this (regional competition) was going to happen afterward, so then I got nervous.  But I was also happy."

         The Regional Spelling Bee, set for February 25 at Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, is a preliminary round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.  If Deodhar wins the regional competition, he would then advance to the state competition-- a prelude to the national finals.

         "Atharva takes the spelling bee seriously, and you can tell," says Wendy Michels, Deodhar's teacher.  "He studied from the time we came back from the holidays, and didn't miss one word.  It was exciting to watch."

         His win didn't come easy.  The concluding round was a showdown between Deodhar, Abigail Gray, and Anna Thompson, with pressure ramping as each of them successfully spelled several words in an auditorium packed with more than 75 fifth grade students.

         "It was very dramatic, more than we expected," Michels said.  "The other fifth graders were supportive, they clapped after every word and were really into it, and they seemed to like cheering for their classmates.  It was fun."

         Thompson, the runner-up, says she hopes to enter again next year so she can eventually offer guidance and serve as a role model for her younger sister.  Such multi-generation interest in the spelling bee is exactly what Michels likes hearing.

         "It's a good experience for the kids," Michels says.  "They don't just have to spell the words, they have to stand in front of a group of people while competing, and that's so different."

         Deodhar, who once participated in a spelling bee while living in India, says the idea of whittling to a single winner is the key difference from what he experienced in the other competition.

         "In India they had a whole bunch of kids qualify for the state round," he says.  "Each student had to have a certain number of marks in school to go.  So for this one coming up, I feel more responsibility to do well for my school because I'm the only one."

         Richmond Principal Dickie Van Breene says the school's staff and students will appreciate Deodhar's effort regardless of how he finishes in the regional competition.

         "We are very proud to have Atharva Deodhar compete in the regional spelling bee," Van Breene says.  "He is a very hard-working young man and he will represent Richmond Street well."

         The spelling bee, she adds, "was a great experience for all of our fifth graders.  We're looking forward to participating every year."

         In the meantime, she, Michels, and the fifth graders at Richmond are hoping Deodhar can continue his hot streak with a strong showing at this month's regional spelling bee.

         "Atarva's still studying every night, and he's very good at spelling," Michels says.  "Whether or not he wins, he's going to do well."