WALKERTON — Chemists may want to examine if there is something in the atmosphere near John Glenn High School that somehow makes one an outstanding speller.
Saturday, John Glenn High School’s Spell Bowl team accomplished what is becoming a traditional feat — winning the state championship. For the 15th time in the last 24 years, the JGHS spellers captured the Div. 2 Spell Bowl State Championship with a score of 86 of 90 words spelled correctly at Purdue University.
The team won with six perfect spellers with scores of 9 of 9 and four near perfect spellers with scores of 8 of 9. This was the team’s first official competition in Div. 2, a larger school enrollment division.
“I really don’t know what it is,” said team coach Paul Hernandez, who teaches English at the school. “Our kids work at it very hard. They’ve bought into it and then there is that tradition. There is nothing like tradition to build a program. Our kids are proud of that accomplishment and as long as they are willing to work hard I think they will continue to be successful.”
The JGHS team outdistanced the second place team from New Prairie who scored a 77. In third place was Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger with a score of 76.
The top seven teams in the state in Div. 2 competed for the title. Those seven teams earned the right to compete for the title after having the seven highest scores out of 49 teams in the state in Regional competition. The JGHS team also had the highest score in Regional competition of the 49 statewide teams in Div. 2 with a score of 84, and the third highest of all 199 teams in the State.
“I thought it was really something that four teams from our regional qualified for the state tournament,” said Hernandez. “I was very proud of Anna Schmelter’s (coach at Plymouth High School) team. Anna was a four year perfect speller for me when she was in school here (at Glenn). I told our kids at the beginning of the year if she didn’t have her team in the state this year it wouldn’t be long until they were and I was very proud of the Plymouth kids’ accomplishment.”
This marked JGHS’s 25th consecutive trip to the state finals. The state winning score of 86 was also the third highest score in the State Finals out of all 30 teams in all four school enrollment divisions. Only two Div. 1 teams had higher scores. John Glenn is also the only high school to win Spell Bowl State Championships in two different enrollment divisions.
Earning perfect scores at state were seniors Erika Groves, Rachel Simms and Chloe Jacobson; juniors, Elly Alexander and Miranda Kafantaris; and sophomore J.J. Silvey. Near perfect spellers were senior Garrett Blad; junior Kim Lord; sophomore Ann Heckaman-Davis; and freshman Erin Patterson. Alternates on the team were Tyler Foster, Ben Keller, Emily Thomas, Maryellen Schmalzried, Sage Bladow, Chris Mahank, Morgan Kafantaris, Katie Groves, and Raven Miller.
“I have to admit that this team has surprised me,” said Hernandez. “For a while, I didn’t know if we even had a chance to qualify for State, but they worked hard at the end and did qualify. Then in preparation for State, they really came through with the time and effort needed. They showed it at State with a well earned victory. I’m very happy and proud of my team and the school.”