Just Try to Stump This Speller

March 21, 2019 GMT

LOWELL -- Eighth-grader Ranjana Ramesh loves words, so much so that she regularly competes in spelling bees. On March 13, that love of words and bees led her to win the 34th annual Daily Item Regional Spelling Bee in Lynn. Ramesh’s win means that she will represent the region at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C, in May.

To win the regional, Ramesh had to make it through 30 rounds.

“It was very exciting because I had never been to a regional bee before,” said Ramesh, a Ste Jeanne d’Arc School student and Chelmsford resident.

While The Daily Item has been sponsoring the regional bee for years, this year’s bee was more competitive, according to Susan Conti, one of the bee’s coordinators.

The reason it was so competitive this year is because the Daily Item’s bee expanded to include other counties after sponsors of those bees dropped out. The expansion enabled schools like Ste Jeanne d’Arc to enter their students. This year 110 schools competed in the bee.

“It was a really difficult spelling bee this year because the kids are so fierce,” Conti said.

Though nerve-wracking, the experience was all in good fun for Ramesh -- spelling bees are her passion.

Her favorite part of a spelling bee is the anticipation-filled moment right before she is given a word to spell.

After stumbling on the word ‘pablum’ in a one-on-one round with the regional bee’s runner-up, Ramesh came out the winner after correctly spelling “peculate.”

“You spell all these difficult words and then you get something like ‘peculate’,” Ramesh said with a smile.

Ramesh’s smile is infectious. It lights up her face as she talks about the bee, how she studies and why she loves it.

Currently her favorite word is ‘Laoighis’, which is a county in Ireland.

“I like it because it’s pronounced completely different then it’s spelled,” she said.

According to Susan Millette, the admissions and marketing director for Ste Jeanne d’Arc, Ramesh is always smiling.

“She always brightens my day,” Millette said.

To qualify for the regional bee in Lynn, Ramesh first had to win her school’s spelling bee where the runner up was her brother, seventh grader Navin Ramesh.

According to Assistant Principal Monique Letendre, Ramesh and her brother are often finalists in the school’s bee and will go back and forth with each other in the final rounds.

To prepare for the national bee, Ramesh plans to study with her brother. It will be the second time the siblings head to the national level.

Last year they tied each other for 42nd in the national bee but did not make it to the televised competition.

“Going to the national bee is a completely different experience than any other bee,” Ramesh said.

Ramesh prepares for the national level by focusing more on the roots of words, as opposed to studying lists of words.

When she’s preparing for her school bee Ramesh said she’ll go to every practice session her school offers. The week before the regional bee, Ramesh said she studied for two hours a day.

“Ranjana’s motivated and she’s the go-getter and takes things to the next level,” said Letendre.

The chance to compete in the regional bee this year was especially meaningful for Ramesh because as an eighth grader, it is her last year to qualify.

It was a feeling she shared with other eighth grade competitors who she said all rooted for each other to make it to the next round.

Though she can’t compete in the bee next year, Ramesh said she hopes to go back and offer insight and support to competitors. Her advice to those interested in spelling bees is to take advantage of all resources available and to just go for it.

“Never be afraid to be in the bee,” she said.