Having emerged from spelling competitions involving students in their classroom, in their school and then their county, it all come down to this.
Twenty-two students from 10 Central Illinois counties will gather at Eisenhower High School in Decatur at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 17, to compete in this year's Regional Spelling Bee. The winner will move on to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, set for May 27 through June 1 in Washington, D.C.
This year's regional bee features five spellers who have made it to this point before.
For Maya Jyothinagaram, an eighth-grader at Maroa-Forsyth Middle School, it will be her fifth consecutive and final appearance at the regional bee. She will be joined on stage by Matthias Adams, an eighth-grader at Mount Zion Junior High, who is making his fourth consecutive appearance.
The duo was part of a tight battle to claim this year's Macon County title, going 21 rounds before Matthias emerged victorious.
Rounding out this year's list of repeat performers are Caleb Wiessing, an eigth-grader at Villa Grove Elementary School, with three appearances, and Sarvesh Arivarasu, a sixth-grader at Our Lady of Lourdes School, and Zach Jalley, an eight-grader at Warrensburg-Latham Middle School, each with two appearances.
There are four fourth-graders in this year's field, including Makaylah Adams. As you may have guessed, Matthias is her brother. She is the third member of their family to make it to the regional bee. Their older brother, Mekhi, also made it to multiple regional bees.
Stu Ellis will once again serve as the pronouncer. David Cooprider, retired regional superintendent of schools, will be the chief judge. He will be assisted by Teena Zindel-McWilliams, assistant to the vice president at Richland Community College, and Ollie Taylor, who is retired from the Decatur School District.