Lux student leaps to top of pack in LPS Spelling Bee

“Meridian” will be a word Bella remembers for a very long time.
Bella spelled victory with the eight-letter word at the 2024 Lincoln Public Schools Oral Spelling Bee. She finished first out of 22 contestants in grades 6-8 at the 36th annual bee, which took place in Culler Middle School’s auditorium.
Bella, a sixth-grade student at Lux Middle School, said she was happy to be crowned champion in front of students, parents and community members.
“At first I was really nervous, but now I’m proud of myself,” Bella said.
Sara Danielson, an English Language Arts curriculum specialist for grades 7-12 at LPS, said she has enjoyed watching and leading spelling bees for many years. Danielson oversaw the 2024 bee and smiled as students wrestled with words such as “aptitude,” “unscathed” and “cholesterol.”
“I think today is such a great event because it reminds us how much words matter,” Danielson said. “It reminds us to engage in the study of those things that we’re immersed in every day, and I think it’s a great way for students to show what they know in a really interesting way. It’s a showcase of their reading, their knowledge and their commitment to understanding more of the world around them.”
The E.W. Scripps Company, which runs the Scripps National Spelling Bee each year, provided LPS with an entire package of bee materials. Danielson said the package includes a set of rules and a word list with definitions, origins and sentence usage. Cyndy Maddux and Jack Bisbee read the words to students in the order they appeared on the Scripps list.
All 22 spellers took part in a practice round before the contest began. They received words such as “engulf,” “trifle,” “regiment” and “hexagonal” in the first round, and the second round contained puzzles such as “subsequent,” “siege,” “tempura” and “indemnity.”
Bella joined Chris, a seventh grader at Scott Middle School, and Eli, a sixth-grade student at Irving Middle School, as the lone remaining contestants after round three. Bella was the third and final speller in the next round, and she claimed first place after listing “meridian” correctly.
Chris earned second place after winning a run-off with Eli. He collected a silver medal for spelling “legato” in front of the audience.
Bella said she realized she could win as she walked to the microphone during the fourth round. She took extra time to go over her word before successfully completing it.
“I was like, ‘I really hope I spell the next one right,’” she said with a smile.
Bella said she practiced over winter break by taking online quizzes and studying long lists of words. She said patience on stage was something that paid off for her.
“I would say, ‘Don’t rush it and take your time,’ because even if you know the word, you could mess up if you say it really fast,” Bella said.
Bella and Chris both spelled words that are used in school settings. One of the most common definitions of meridian is “a representation of such a circle or half circle numbered for longitude on a map or globe.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines legato as a musical term that is “in a manner that is smooth and connected.”
Bella became the fifth Lux student in the past seven years to win the spelling bee. Former Pound Middle School student Heather Farris won the first LPS Oral Spelling Bee as an eighth grader in 1989.
Danielson said she was pleased to see the high level of interest in this year’s bee. She was optimistic that even more students would choose to be spellers in the future.
“We had more spellers this year than last year, which is great,” Danielson said. “We’re always looking to continue to grow the program. We’d love to see more and more every year come out and engage in this word work on stage.”
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Published: February 16, 2024, Updated: February 16, 2024

Lux Middle School sixth-grade student Bella smiles with her championship medal at the 36th annual Lincoln Public Schools Oral Spelling Bee. Bella spelled the word meridian correctly to win the title. Students in grades 6-8 from across the district came to Culler Middle School for the spelling bee.