A Forreston student won the grade school spelling bee while sportsmanship won the day.
Fifth grader Lucas Nelson was ultimately the winner of the 25th Scripps annual school spelling bee after a nail-biting 25 rounds, narrowly edging out runner-up Sophie Lewis.
All of Forreston’s spellers deserve credit, considering five students went into the 11th round, where many schools have finished by then.
By round 14, only Nelson and Lewis remained, and that’s when things got tense.
The pair played spelling tug-o-war, traded rounds of missing a word while their opponent spelled their first word correctly, but missed their second.
This trade went on for more than 10 rounds — alternating near misses, both spelling correctly, or both misspelling — until finally Lucas nailed both dexterity and marmalade for the win.
“I’m feeling good, it was fun,” said Nelson, humble in his win. He’ll go on to compete in the regional bee held at Dixon High School on Feb. 22.
The sportsmanship and support the entire cast of participants showed eclipsed the impressive length of the bee and skill of the finalists.
It’s not uncommon for youngsters to get frustrated and emotional when eliminated from competition, particularly when enduring the pressure of standing in front of their peers.
“I’ve told the kids that if they’re nervous, it’s okay to be that way, because it means you worked hard at something, and you care about it,” said bee pronouncer and FGS principal Jonathan Schneiderman. “It’s a lot to stand in front of peer, teachers, and their principal, and compete. They conquered this, and that’s something they can take in life with them.”
With that in mind, as the 15 participating students began to be eliminated one-by-one, none of them sulked or brooded. Instead, they sat down and cheered on the rest of the spellers.
“Hopefully that has something to do with Forreston Grade School in its entirety, and the culture and lessons they’ve learned from their preschool teachers, all the way up to fifth grade,” said Schneiderman.
Heather Schiesher, FGS fifth grade teacher and head of the spelling bee committee, said the staff has been preparing the kids to look at these situations with positive views.
“We really focused a lot on growth mindset here; we learn from our mistakes,” said Schiesher. “We prepared them for the fact that 14 of them would ultimately make a mistake, and that’s okay. They moved on, and handled themselves in a sportsmanlike way, and they’re just an awesome group.”
Each time one would join them back on the bleachers, they were met with high fives, fist bumps, or hugs, and always encouragement.
Nelson and Lewis walked away with medals, but the every participant deserves recognition for their conduct both during and after competition.