WINTERSVILLE -Dharani Kotekal said she's hoping to emerge one of the country's top spellers as she travels with her family to the Scripps National Spelling from Sunday through June 2 in Washington, D.C.
Kotekal, 14, an eighth-grader at Indian Creek Junior High School and the daughter of Dr. Nagaraj Kotekal and Jaya Kotekal, won the 2012 Jefferson County Regional Spelling Bee presented by Eastern Gateway Community College and the Herald-Star held March 10 at Buckeye North Elementary School by correctly spelling the word "nativistic," which is defined as "a sociopolitical policy, especially in the United States in the 19th century, favoring the interests of established inhabitants over those of immigrants."
This marks the second time Kotekal will be traveling to the nation's capital to compete in the national bee, having previously won the county bee in 2010. Kotekal said this year she hopes to emerge one of the top 278 spellers competing from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Somoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Europe and several other countries.
Mark J. Miller
POSSIBLE WORDS — Dharani Kotekal, 14, an eighth-grader at Indian Creek Junior High School, studies “the big board” in her bedroom chockful of possible words she may face during her trip to the Scripps National Spelling from Sunday through June 2 in Washington, D.C. Kotekal, who won the 2012 Jefferson County Regional Spelling Bee presented by Eastern Gateway Community College and the Herald-Star held March 10 at Buckeye North Elementary School, will be taking her entire family on the trip and hopes to emerge one of the nation’s top spellers.
"I placed 44th out of 278 (in 2010)," said Kotekal, adding she was in sixth grade at the time. "It's become a major, important part of my life. When I was (previously) at the national spelling bee I discovered words really fascinated me."
She also said the English language is a melting pot of different languages and she constantly is studying spelling construction by using the language of origin. Kotekal added she has worked hard on off-list words that were used during the county bee.
"I was prepared for any words they would ask," she said, adding she's had two years to study. "That was the goal I had in mind. I studied language origins and grammar rules as well."
Kotekal has a routine she uses to determine the correct spelling that includes visualization and other clues, she said. Before she spells a word she always asks its origin as well as practicing "phantom" writing of the word on her placard. The result - she's placed in the top two in the countywide bee for the past three years.
"It's kind of like a puzzle," she said. "You piece everything together, and that's how you get the word. It's not memorization. There are a lot of aspects that go into it."
Kotekal also has a white board in her room with difficult words she believes she may encounter during the national bee.
"My mom is my coach," said Kotekal. "She asks me my words, the origins and the spelling. We plan a lot. My family, teachers and friends have all really been supportive."
Kotekal has many interests and talents, according to her biography on the Scripps' website. She plays saxophone in the Tri-State Community Band as well as the Indian Creek Marching Band. She's president of her student council, a National Junior Honor Society member, a member of the school media club, Young Women's Club and Students Against Destructive Decisions as well as being a vegetarian and involved in PETA. She also has an interest in astrology and the universe, according to the biography.
Jaya Kotekal said India has languages for each province of the country, including the Sanskrit language. Dharani can speak two of them, including Kannada and Hindi, and she also is studying German. Her sister Dhatri also is an excellent student as well, according to her mother.
"She's studying pre-med at Ohio State University, and she was valedictorian last year at Indian Creek High School," said Jaya.
For her win in the county bee Kotekal received a $500 savings bond from Huntington Bank; a Webster's Third New International Dictionary; the Samuel Louis Sugarman $50 certificate; a one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica; a $20 gift Amazon.com certificate; and an all-expenses-paid trip to the Scripps bee.
Top prizes in the national bee grand winner include a $30,000 prize; a $2,500 U.S. savings bond and complete reference library from Merriam-Webster; a $5,000 scholarship from the Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation; $2,600 in reference works, including the final print edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica and a lifetime membership to Britannica online; and an online language course from Middlebury Interactive Languages.
Top placers in the national bee receive everything from a $100 gift card to substantial cash prizes for the top six finishers. Round one of the national bee includes a computer spelling test, with those making the cut advancing to the preliminary and final rounds later in the week, according to the Scripps website.
"Of all of the events the newspaper is involved in every year, the spelling bee is one of the most important," said Ross Gallabrese, executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. "It helps to teach skills that all participants will be able to use for the rest of their lives.
"We're sure Dharani will represent our area well."
Gallabrese also thanked the other sponsors who helped with this year's bee program, including Eastern Gateway Community College, Huntington Bank, Uniglobe Ohio Valley Travel for the Amtrak travel accommodations to the national bee, the Ohio Lottery for funding the registration fees of each of the spellers and the Jefferson County Education Service Center for its help in conducting the local bee program.
The Herald-Star will have updates on Kotekal's progress as the week proceeds. For information on the national bee, go to www.spellingbee.com.