Side-by-side titles for Penn, John Glenn


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Penn and John Glenn high schools extended their class reigns for another year Saturday in the Indiana Academic Competitions State Spell Bowl at Purdue University.

Perennial victor John Glenn took top honors in Class 2 of the senior division with a score of 87 out of a possible 90. It was the school's 18th state title, fifth since 2009 and 28th appearance at the state finals.

Penn received a perfect score of 90 and tied for first place again with rival Martinsville High School. It was Penn's 13th state title. Since 1999, no other team besides Penn and Martinsville has taken home first-place laurels in Class 1.

New Prairie High School also performed well in the competition, taking third place in Class 2 with a score of 82. The school's last division championship was in 2008.

The rafters of Purdue's Loeb Playhouse were shaken by the roars and applause of the students' supporters and family members. The crowd also showed appreciation after the event, when several retiring coaches were honored.

One of those coaches was Paul Hernandez of John Glenn. He has coached the Spell Bowl team for 27 years and also has taught Senior English, Creative Writing, A.P. English and Honors classes.

The coaches from Penn, New Prairie and John Glenn praised the efforts of their teams.

"It's been a long season and I'm really proud of these kids," said coach James Groendyke of New Prairie. "They worked hard and did very well."

Groendyke is confident about next year. New Prairie has a strong group of spellers coming out of the middle school ranks.

"I'm thrilled; the kids worked so hard from regional to state," said Glenn coach Hernandez. "This team has worked as hard as any I've ever had and I'm very proud of them."

Penn coach Pete DeKever said he is happy with the state championship but said the real goal was theperfect score. "It's what we expect and we fulfilled that goal," he said.

DeKever said the time the team has spent together has been a blessing and that Spell Bowl teaches the kids lessons that will be applicable throughout their lives.

"Whether they want to be teachers, businesspeople, lawyers or doctors, this is where they learn to achieve with hard work and practice; how to be the best at something.

Excellence is an overused word and people talk about it but here is a team that lives it."

The John Glenn High School team included Jahna Almaguer, Jennifer Almaguer, Ryan Arick, Anna Dennie, Joel Hadden, Bill Harness, Aubrey Houser, Cole Jacobson, Jacob Kickbush, Jordan Maure, Erin Patterson, Riley Patterson, Maddy Piedra, Holly Rowe, Mason Strycker, Elisabeth Wilks and Taylor Winkel.

The Penn High School team included Faihaan Arif, Kanika Arora, Nitin Arora, Muqsit Buchh, Presto George, Peter Jung, Richard Jung, Max Kirsch, Nikita Kumar, Alice Kwak, Hannah McGinness, Yejee Oh, Josh Rajkumar, Michelle Tapp, Emily Vetne, Disha Waghray and Chris Yu.

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