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'Cheka' the winning word in spelling bee

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    Anika Pundir took first place Friday in the spelling bee at Avon Middlle School.

    STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE

  • spelling-bee-2-jpg

    Allison Bechtold finished second in the county spelling bee March 22.

    STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE

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AVON — After correctly spelling 24 words in the final round between two students, Anika Pundir, of Avon Middle School, was declared the winner of the 36th annual Educational Service Center of Lorain County and The Chronicle-Telegram Spelling Bee.

Anika, a seventh-grader and Allison Bechtold, an eighth-grader at Midview Middle School were the final two spellers of the night.

Anika, the daughter of Rahul Pundir and Arpita Singh, correctly spelled detente, which means a “relaxing of tension, especially between nations, as by negotiations or agreements,” followed by cheka which means “secret police, as in a communist-dominated country, having virtually unrestrained power over life and death.”

And while the definitions of the words didn’t help Anika, it was visualizing the words that helped her succeed Friday night.

“I tried to visualize the words, but I only practiced once a week,” Anika said, as her younger sister, Ava, 5, gave her a hug and admired her trophy.

By winning the bee Friday night, Anika will compete in the 92nd annual National Scripps Spelling Bee Competition on May 27 to June 1 in Washington, D.C.

“She studies all by herself and loves to read,” Singh said of her daughter.

If Anika cannot attend, runner-up Allison will go in her place.

And just in case that happens, Allison plans to study more words between now and the end of May.

Allison, the daughter of Mark and Nora Bechtold, said she practiced twice a week for the local bee, but knows if she has to travel to Washington for the national bee, she will have to up her game.

“I just try to remember the words on the list,” she said.

For the first time in the bee’s history, there was a different format Friday night at Avon Middle School.

Rather than splitting the bee into two preliminary bees, there was only one spelling bee, said Educational Service Center of Lorain County coordinator of special projects Debbie Hunt.

“I thought it went really well and we will use the same format next year,” Hunt said.

Already planning for next year, Hunt said she intends to contact more schools in the county to see if there is interest from other districts to participate in the local spelling bee.

Contact Melissa Linebrink at (440) 329-7243 or mlinebrink@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @MLinebrinkCT.


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