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  • Erica Cho, left, and Rohan Eapen compete against each other in the 15th round of Thursday night's 64th annual Allen County Journal Gazette Spelling Bee at IPFW. (Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette)

Friday, February 09, 2018 1:00 am

8th-grader outlasts field to win spelling bee

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Top 5

Allen County Journal Gazette Spelling Bee placements

1. Erica Cho, eighth grade, Summit Middle School

2. Rohan Eapen, fifth grade, Deer Ridge Elementary School

3. Oliver VandeWater, eighth grade, Canterbury School

4. Gar (Edgar) Kenna, eighth grade, St. Jude Elementary School

5. Jordan DeJesus, sixth grade, Jefferson Middle School

Although no bell dinged after Erica Cho briskly spelled “endocrinologist,” the audience remained hushed Thursday night until she was officially declared champion of the 64th annual Allen County Journal Gazette Spelling Bee.

In the competition's final rounds, the Summit Middle School eighth-grader shared the stage with fellow Southwest Allen County Schools student Rohan Eapen, eventual runner-up. The Deer Ridge Elementary School fifth-grader stumbled in Round 15 on the word “desiderium.”

The pair, who went head-to-head for four rounds, faced 47 other spellers onstage at the Auer Auditorium at IPFW.

“We're very proud of the students that sit onstage today,” master of ceremonies Heather Heal said before spelling began.

Only 16 spellers remained after two rounds, surviving such words as “tapirs,” “vociferous” and “rhododendron” while others blundered “reservoir,” “linoleum,” “sophomore,” “claustrophobic,” and “impeccable,” among others.

At least one word noticeably amused audience members – Rohan's 14th-round challenge, “turducken.”

Afterward, Erica – who also competed last year – said she felt relief it was over.

Rohan was proud he stood his own against an eighth-grader, he said. It was his first time competing in the county bee, which was presented by STAR Financial Bank.

“I'm just so proud of him,” said his mother, Shobana Eapen.

As winner, Erica will compete with winners from 14 other northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio counties at the Regional Spelling Bee at 10 a.m. March 3 at IPFW's Rhinehart Music Center Recital Hall.

She doesn't expect her preparation strategy – studying words on the spelling list – will change much, she said.

The winner of the regional competition will represent The Journal Gazette at the 91st annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May.

asloboda@jg.net