HIGHTSTOWN: It’s ‘university’ for the win in annual Juniorettes spelling bee

Pictured from left to right are: Greater Hightstown Juniorettes co-advisor

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Pictured from left to right are: Greater Hightstown Juniorettes co-advisor

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
HIGHTSTOWN — She may some day go on to attend a university, but for now, it’s enough that 10-year-old Kavya Murthy knows how to spell “university.”
And she did.
Kavya, of East Windsor, ended up outlasting 56 other district students to win the 15th annual Greater Hightstown Juniorettes spelling bee Feb. 2 at Grace N. Rogers Elementary School.
It is the fourth year that group co-advisors, Cori Kenny and Sue Madden, both of East Windsor, have organized the spelling bee for local fourth- and fifth-graders in the district. There were 34 fourth graders and 22 fifth graders who participated in the event.
The spelling bee lasted 30 rounds with the last several rounds going back and forth between Kavya and Julia DeFoe, 10, of East Windsor. Kavya won the winning round by spelling the word “university.”
“I was really excited and I was shocked,” said Kavya. “It was my first time participating. I thought I would be good at it and I really love spelling.”
The Greater Hightstown Juniorettes is a non-profit volunteer organization of young women, ages 12-18, whose primary focus is to serve the community. Members volunteer at events such as the annual spelling bee, do face painting at the Rise holiday party and help out at our local soup kitchen and local libraries.
All spelling bee participants received a coupon for a free cone from the East Windsor Dairy Queen, a bee pencil, and a Smarties candy, she added. Participants were also asked to bring a donation of non-perishable item that could be donated to Rise.
To prepare of the spelling bee, Kavya said that she tried to memorize the practice list that the participants were given. She also read through a dictionary and had several people giver her practice tests.
He main opponent toward the later round, Julia DeFoe, said she was nervous because she thought she was going to be among the participants who would be eliminated early in the contest.
“It was my first time,” said Julia. “I saw the sheet in my mailbox (at school). I thought it was interesting and had never done it before and it was only for fourth- and fifth-graders so I thought that I would just do it. I’m pretty good at spelling, too.”
The top three winners received gift cards. Kavya, from Grace N. Rogers, received a $50 gift card; Julia, from the Walter C. Black School, received a $35 card; and Joshua Ipe, 10, from the Ethel McKnight, won a $25 card for finishing third.
“It felt good making to the top three but I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get first again,” said Joshua, who placed first in the spelling bee last year.
Judges for the event were Elaine Villani, Lee Brown and Dale Grubb, all members of the Friday Club of Hightstown. Ms. Brown is a former teacher in the East Windsor Regional School District.
Ms. Brown said she was impressed with the poise and the cooperation of the students.
“I thought they did a great job,” said Ms. Grubb. “We didn’t have any sore losers.”
Prior to the start of the bee, Ms. Kenny went over the official list of rules with the participants.
“Though it is not a rule, it use to be a rule that you had to say-spell-say, it’s no longer a rule but we are strongly suggesting to the contestants that they pronounce the word before the spelling,” she said. “This will allow the judges to make sure the contestant is spelling the correct word. After spelling the word, the contestant should say the word again to let the judges know they you have spelled the correct word.”
The participants started off with a practice round to get them familiar with the format and comfortable on the stage. For some it was their first time participating in the spelling bee.
Ms. Kenny said that the top three will go on to the district-level spelling bee Feb. 21. Winners from that competition will advance to the State Spelling Bee on March 5.