NZ's sharpest spellers hit the stage in national spelling bee

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 27 Nov 2021, 11:54AM

NZ's sharpest spellers hit the stage in national spelling bee

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 27 Nov 2021, 11:54AM

Covid-19 complications haven't scuppered the search for the country's best junior speller; the Aotearoa New Zealand Spelling Bee is being held today. 

Twenty-one of New Zealand's sharpest Year 9-10 students will compete from 11.30am to 2pm for the national title in the event's 16th edition - and a $5000 first prize to go towards future academic study. 

However, the event's planning had been far from simple, as the Delta outbreak in August wreaked havoc with preparations. 

In fact, when Auckland was plunged into alert level 4 lockdown on August 17, the region's qualification event was only days away. 

That meant organisers were forced to consider results from a written test earlier in the year to select Auckland-based spellers for the competition. 

However, with today's final showdown hosted at the City Gallery in Wellington and Auckland's border still restricted only to essential travel, a creative solution was required. 

After careful planning and testing, it was determined the 14 spellers outside Auckland would gather in Wellington, while the seven remaining competitors would join the event by broadcast from an Auckland studio. 

The event would then operate in two teams, with educators based in both Wellington and Auckland to test the children's knowledge. 

It had been a stressful time for programme director Janet Lucas, but she was glad the event was going ahead. 

"I spoke to some teachers about it on how they feel about us doing this and they said, 'Just make it happen', they'd seen so many events cancelled," she said. 

"I felt quite emotional when I saw 14 of the spellers arrive in Wellington." 

Asked whether the seven Auckland-based spellers would be at a disadvantage, Lucas acknowledged it would have a different feel but felt assured all competitors were adequately prepared. 

All 21 students had been given 200 words to memorise, some of which would be used in the first two rounds before venturing into the unknown in later rounds until a winner was found. 

It only took one wrong letter for a competitor to be knocked out, but Lucas was confident all involved would bring their A-game. 

"These students are pretty high achievers, they're all-rounders."