Swayam Rath didn’t have to pay a “remittance” to win the Denton County Spelling Bee, but he did have to spell the word correctly.
Three syllables and 10 letters were all it took for the Carrollton Harmony School of Innovation fifth-grader to best 15 other students and take home the championship. The hours of studying he put in beforehand didn’t hurt, either.
“I had butterflies before we started,” Rath said. “I had researched what to study and tried my best to memorize it.”
Middle school students from public, private, charter and home schools across the county duked it out Thursday night for the opportunity to advance to the regional competition and, hopefully, the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Under the fluorescent lights of Denton ISD’s Professional Development Building, the spellers fidgeted as they faced four judges. Before the contest even began, students surveyed the room, sizing up the competition and running through their mental dictionaries.
Each speller had their own style when their turn came. Calhoun Middle School seventh-grader Alyssa Trasporto asked for the definition, origin, alternate pronunciation and sentence usage before she began spelling. Kachy Chuckwuka, a sixth-grader at Founders Classical Academy of Flower Mound, would write the word on his hand with his finger as he spelled it out.
The spelling bee coordinator, Denton ISD’s Beth Myers, said she’s previously helped out with two district bees and another county bee.
“This one went on a little longer than expected,” she noted. “It’s still a great opportunity for the kids. It encourages involvement in academics and helps boost their confidence.”
First-round words like bandit, condor and melba quickly gave way to more difficult ones like croquette, pitchblende and boudoir. At one point, judge Stephen Shade, who teaches German at Guyer High School, had to correct another judge on her pronunciation of Wagnerian — a word named after German composer Richard Wagner.
Eventually, the numbers dwindled. Tears fell on flushed cheeks as parents wrapped their spellers up in a hug. Trasporto made it to the 15th round and was one of the final four spellers before tripping up on the word inconsequential.
“I knew what the word was, but I couldn’t say it orally because it was too long,” she said.
Even though she lost Thursday, Trasporto said she’ll definitely be back at next year’s competition to compete for the trophy.
Chuckwuka, who came in second, also has his sights set on next year’s competition. He’ll serve as an alternate for the regional bee this year and said he’s still happy with his performance at the county level.
“I think I did really well,” he said. “I spelled some words that weren’t even on the study list.”
In the meantime, Rath already is getting ready for the next competition on March 4 in Dallas. If he wins there, he’ll receive a free trip to Washington, D.C., and a spot in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.
His mother, Smita, said she and Rath’s father will be there to support him when he steps up on the stage again.
“He practiced very hard for this and I feel proud,” she said. “He reads a lot of books, so he already has a large vocabulary. He’ll need to study some more, but I think he’ll do well.”
When asked how he’ll fare in Dallas, Rath smiled and looked down at his trophy.
“I’ll try my best,” he said. “We’ll see what happens on March 4.”
CAITLYN JONES can be reached at 940-566-6862 and via Twitter at @CjonesDRC.