CLAYTON — Cascade High School’s Spell Bowl team took home another state championship Nov. 10 at the 28th annual Indiana Academic Spell Bowl Finals at Purdue University in West Lafayette. This makes the third consecutive year that Cascade has brought home the championship.
Spell Bowl coach Cindie Corn said she was ecstatic with the team’s success and attributed it to “hard work in a competition that never gets easier.”
“I think we came together as a team more than ever before,” she said. “And we studied so much harder because we had to. I know more Spell Bowl words than I ever thought I’d know.”
Administered by the Indiana Association of School Principals and Department of Student Programs, the Spell Bowl format is a competition where each word is graded immediately and an individual scoring chart maintains a running team score as the event progresses. More than 2,000 spectators viewed the event. Each round consists of one team member writing the correct spelling of nine words whilst competing against a member of a different school.
“Going into it, they were so focused, and really we were all a little nervous, but after the first five or six rounds we felt pretty good,” Corn said. “It was just sheer happiness ... just to realize the goal of the whole season. For months and months we worked toward this goal, and to do it as a team was really, really special.”
Spell Bowl words change each year, so Corn says it’s not possible to draw on past success.
“We were first in the county, and then first at Spellapalooza, which is the invitational we host, and then at Martinsville we did OK,” Corn said. “But losses kind of spur us on. I think you get better from your mistakes.”
Cascade’s crew posted an 80 at their area tournament, the highest score they’d ever had in advancing through the state tournament over the years. That left three weeks to prepare for the main competition.
“I was really concerned that we’d be overconfident,” Corn said. “But you go three weeks when you don’t have any competitions. It’s all practice and you don’t have any other way to compare to other schools and that was nerve wracking. That’s one of the things we really talked about. We were more intense in our studying.”
Corn said coaching the team is a balance of keeping it fun and understanding the goal.
“You don’t want kids to turn away from it,” she said. “We play games during practice and we laugh a lot. There are just some words that we found funny and then you go onto the definitions and we just have these little running jokes about certain words and it’s a commonality.”
The reality that next year the school could have seniors that have won a state title all four years of their high school careers is not lost on the group.
“We’ve talked about it,” Corn said. “After they won twice, they said ‘let’s go for three.’ We won. And one of my students (Thomas Meredith) said I told him when he was a freshman, ‘you could be the first students to be on a winning state championship team all four years of your career.’ I really don’t remember telling him that, but he did. So when we won this year he said, ‘one more year, one more year.’”