It may not be the biggest bee of them all, but the annual spelling bee held at the Forest Park Middle School has its pressures.

This year’s contest, held May 14, crowned six students as the top spellers in their respective grade levels using a format that varies widely from the nationally televised bee that has garnered prime time coverage in recent years. Spellers are asked to correctly write the same word rather than taking turns at a microphone. The local format eliminates what can arguably be an uneven playing field when a student is given a more difficult word, according to Tim Grivois, a District 91 teacher who helped coordinate the local bee.

It’s possible the schools will join the Scripps National Spelling Bee, but for now the smaller stage is just fine.

“There’s certainly a few nervous faces, but generally everybody has a good time,” Grivois said.

Nerves may have gotten the better of this year’s fifth-grade competitors who, on the very first word of the competition, misspelled “gamut.” The gaffe eliminated all but one of the spellers, Zack Giers, who was declared the winner.

Paris Cowan was the winner among third-graders, Ralen Ricardo took the fourth-grade competition, Eddy Rodriguez was the sixth-grade champion, Jacqueline Evans out-spelled her seventh-grade classmates and Kathleen Turek took the eighth-grade crown.

The District 91 competition is not affiliated with the Scripps bee. Schools participating in the national contest must pay a registration fee and adhere to the guidelines and word lists established for that contest. Forest Park has conducted its own spelling bee for at least 15 years, according to Grivois.

“Honestly, I haven’t heard any precise reasoning for that,” Grivois said of the independent streak.

The final three rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee will air on ESPN and ABC beginning May 29, according to the bee’s Web site.


A May 21 story on the District 91 spelling bee, “In a word, c-h-a-m-p-i-o-n,” incorrectly identified the fifth-grade winner. Harlan Kuhr won the title within his peer group.