F-R-U-I-T-I-O-N, and with that twelfth-consecutive correctly spelled word, Western Springs seventh-grader Alia Abiad’s hard work and study came to fruition on Thursday night as she won the Regional ISC Cook County Spelling Bee Final, securing her place in the Scripps National Bee in Washington D.C. in May.
Facing down nine other hardy contenders from throughout the county—an insanely young field with three fifth-graders and no eighth-graders—Abiad breezed through balcony, finale, threshold, recalcitrant, Qatari, prabhu, tamarind, broach, garlicky, spectacular and median before fruition finally secured her the win.
“At first, I wasn’t sure if it was my last word or not!” Abiad said. “[Then] I was really excited, so I was trying to calm down and picture it. I didn’t want to mess up on the last word.”
She also offered thanks to the several-dozen other McClure students who showed up as a cheering section, waving homemade signs.
The victory set off a wild celebration in the McClure Junior High School auditorium—Abiad’s own school, hosting the bee for the first time ever, now sending District 101’s first-ever national contestant—with principal Dan Chick and superintendent Brian Barnhart at least considering travelling to D.C. with the school’s prize speller.
“It could not happen to a nicer kid,” Barnhart said. “She’s obviously hugely talented, just a super kid from a super family. She’s going to be a great representative—always is.”
“I’d put her up against anybody,” Chick added.
Only three other spellers fell to words from a tricky pre-arranged list—dearth, misogynist and ingénue each claimed a victim—but once the alternate, unseen word set (used at the national level) was swapped in for the eighth round, only Abiad was able to hang on for more than three more words.
Five other contestants slipped on ritual, delectable, trenchant, victorious and permanent between the eighth and tenth rounds, leaving only Abiad and a playful sixth-grader from Glenview, Amil Dravid. Dravid dropped out on innards in the eleventh round and took the second-place prize after Abiad’s fruition.
With the championship, Abiad won a Webster’s dictionary, a yearlong membership to Britannica Online and a special award certificate. But the big prize is the trip to Washington for the big dance on Memorial Day Weekend, the latter stages of which are televised on ESPN.
“I’m really excited,” said Abiad. “I’m excited to be competing, but I’m also excited to be meeting people who like words as much as I do.”
Of course, that means three more months of studying words.
But honestly? “I would really miss the studying if I lost!” Abiad laughed.
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