PLYMOUTH - Xanthophyll. Abyssinia. Mussorgsky.
Ok, now cover up the top of this story and spell those words. Or simply call one of the members of the state bound Plymouth High School Spell Bowl team and get a little help. Those three words are among the 3,500 on the list that each team member must learn and be ready to spell at a moments notice.
“The words aren’t easy,” admitted team coach and Plymouth High School Journalism teacher Amy Schmeltz. “But our kids are dedicated and they always talk about how the words they see in competition are words that they see on things like the SAT.”
Spell Bowl team members practice from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. three times a week and spell 200 words at each practice session.
“We’ll divide things up for each session,” said Schmeltz. “One day we’ll work on capitalized words. Another day we’ll work on words with hyphens or difficult endings like ‘ible’ or ‘able’.”
At competition, each speller is given a chance to spell nine words in a round. Each is seated at a desk with a proctor. An emcee reads a word and then uses it in a sentence. Each competitor must then spell that word in 15 seconds.
“It sounds like a short amount of time but to the kids sometimes that seems like forever,” said Schmeltz.
Saturday, the team will head to the state championship at Purdue University. It is the third year in a row the team has made the finals. They will face perennial spelling powerhouse Penn High School and Martinsville High School both of whom have perfect scores of 90. Plymouth is third in the state with a score of 84.
“Penn rarely ever misspells a word so we know what we have to do,” said Schmeltz. “We have to have a perfect score. I’ve told our kids that this is the best year we’ve ever had and no matter what they do Saturday they need to be extremely proud of what they’ve done this year.”