Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ottawa eighth-grader Ram Koganti is Grand Final Bee champion

After 31 rounds of intense competition, eighth-grader Ram Koganti was crowned the winner or the Peoria Journal Star Grand Final Bee, punching a ticket for the Scripps National competition.

When the winner addressed the crowd of parents and competitors at WEEK-TV, Channel 25 studios, he first asked for a glass of water.

Ram, a student at Wallace Elementary School in Ottawa, got thirsty during the back-and-forth spelling competition with runner-up John Offutt of Mossville Elementary School.

"You know you're going up against the best of the best, so it's anyone's game," Ram said. "(The competition) was really, really good, especially him."

The top two competitors were locked in from Round 13 to Round 30 alternating words: maelstrom, ocelot, echt and Bolshevik.

After the last word, Ram received a thumbs up from his mother, Ushasri Koganti.

While her son acted calm on the stage, with hands resting neatly at his sides and a cool smile after a correct spelling, Koganti was nervous from her seat among a silent group of onlooking parents.
"I'm relieved," she said after the competition.

Both contestants outlasted the competitive field of 14 spellers from across central Illinois.
Ram won the 53rd LaSalle County Spelling Bee, while John took the top spot in the Journal Star Peoria County Spelling Bee.
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