LYNN — It took 30 rounds, more than 400 words and four-plus hours for the winner of the 34th annual Daily Item Regional Spelling Bee to be determined on Wednesday night.
Ranjana Ramesh, 14-year-old eighth-grader at Ste Jeanne d’arc Elementary School in Lowell, was named the champion at Lynn City Hall Auditorium after spelling “peculate” correctly.
With the win, which came after outlasting 60 other spellers and included a tense, 10-round head-to-head with the runner-up speller, she secured a chance to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May just outside Washington, D.C.
“I’m excited,” Ramesh said. “I’m definitely relieved after everything, but proud too and everybody did a great job. I’m happy to represent the region.”
It may have been a different story on Wednesday night, as Ramesh may not have been able to compete at all.
She took second place in her school’s science fair earlier in the day, but if she had placed first, she would have had to be at her school at 6 p.m., and would have been unable to make the spelling bee, according to Susan Conti, controller for Essex Media Group, who was among the coordinators of this year’s contest.
Ramesh remained calm throughout the competition. She made jokes before spelling several of her words and was able to collect herself after being unable to wrap up the win on her first opportunity.
After 20 rounds, the spelling bee came down to Ramesh and another female speller, Zayana Nadeau, a seventh-grader at Marblehead Charter Community Public School.
In the 24th round, Nadeau spelled “lanai” incorrectly, but Ramesh was unable to spell “pablum” correctly.
She had her second chance in the 30th round, when Nadeau misspelled “dilatory” and she was able to correctly spell “varicose.” To win, Ramesh had to spell an additional word, “peculate” or the competition would have continued.
This year’s spelling bee included 110 schools, up dramatically from the number that participated last year. That’s because various sponsors discontinued their involvement, with The Item picking the schools up.
Of those schools, 94 had competitions and winners. From there, The Item gave the school winners a written test from which the 61 finalists emerged.
Co-sponsoring the event were Joel and Mary Abramson, of Swampscott, owners of Flagship Travel.
Before the competition began, Joel Abramson, Mayor Thomas M. McGee, Lynn School Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler, and last year’s winner, Will Robson, of Marblehead, gave opening remarks, stressing that no matter the results of Wednesday’s competition, all of the spellers were already winners, because they had already won their school bee and passed the preliminary exam.
Other sponsors include the City of Lynn; Fauci’s Pizza, Lynn; Dunkin Donuts, Lynn; KFC, Lynn; and Park Press, Saugus.
Also coordinating the event were Carolina Trujillo, director of community relations for Essex Media Group; Laurie Kennedy, manager of financial relations, KIPP Academy; and Ernie Carpenter, director of sales and business development for Essex Media Group.