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Maya Jyothinagaram, and eighth-grader at Maroa-Forsyth Middle School, took home the Central Illinois regional trophy on Saturday and will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee later this year. 

DECATUR — Two spelling titans of Macon County went toe-to-toe once again Saturday for the chance to compete in Washington, D.C.'s Scripps National Spelling Bee. Though eighth-grader Matthias Adams had beaten his rival Maya Jyothinagaram for the last county-wide title, it was the Maroa-Forsyth Middle School eighth-grader who took home the Central Illinois regional trophy.

"I'm feeling so happy, I'm exhilarated," said Jyonthinagaram.

It was her fifth and last time competing in the regional competition that sends one Central Illinois student to Washington every year to go up against the best speller across the U.S.

This year's Central Illinois battle was held at Eisenhower High School.

"Even though it's my last year, I feel that I've made it this far and I've done it for so long," Jyothinagaram said.

The runner-up Adams was knocked out with the word "kestrel," a small type of falcon found in North America.

"I'd never seen the word before and I thought I had a pretty good clue of it, but I didn't," Adams said.

It was his fourth, and also his last time spelling in the event that brings together students from 10 counties across Central Illinois.

Jyothinagaram won with her final word, "agave" in the 17th round. Adams said he knew that one. "I knew that word, and I knew she knew that word," Adams said.

But it may be of some comfort for him to know Jyothinagaram also knew kestrel.

"We had this word in Scholastic Bowl two days go, so that's the reason I knew it," she said.

Both eighth graders will not be eligible to compete again next year, when they enter high school. The two have spent years gunning for the same bragging rights in area spelling competitions.

"It's just like any other rivalry, just going back and forth, trying to come out on top," Adams said.

Twenty other Central Illinois spellers participated, and by Round 14, only the two favorites were left.

The fact that Adams lasted just three subsequent rounds came as somewhat of a surprise, since he was able to outlast Jyothinagaram over 21 rounds in the Macon County Spelling Bee.

"I really wanted to go (to Washington) this year especially," Adams said. "Really the only person to watch out for was Maya, and I knew she would be up there with me," Adams said.

Jyothinagaram's mother, Lakshmi, said the whole family will joining her daughter in May for the ultimate spelling event at the nation's capitol. The event, first held in 1925, is in late May and early June. 

"It's so cool, I get to see people all over the United States," Maya said. | (217) 421-6949


Decatur Reporter

Decatur reporter for the Herald & Review.

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