After enduring 22 rounds in a grueling 40-minute, head-to-head battle, finalists Zeeshan Anower and Matt Brodbent ended the 2023 Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas State Spelling Bee in a most unexpected way — a written, tiebreaker test.
“I honestly have terrible handwriting,” Zeeshan says. “But then my competitor told me backstage that he has terrible handwriting too, and then I was OK.”
Fifth grade student Zeeshan,10, of Sebastian County, and eighth grade student Matt, 12, of Cross County, were given five words — ametropia, hylozoism, avodire, lomilomi and pseudepigrapha — to correctly spell in a written test. Zeeshan was declared the winner after spelling one word, “lomilomi,” correctly over over Matt.
Both contestants spent countless hours preparing for the contest by studying word lists and practicing their spelling aloud. However, neither took writing into consideration.
“At the end of the Bee, much attention is placed on the champion, though it truly is a sport where there is no loser.” — David Copeland
“I don’t like writing, first of all,” Matt says with a laugh. “As for preparing, it usually starts with memorization. In preparing for State, I started trying to recognize the patterns that are in words. And I tried to learn root words, so I can break them down. The really important thing is don’t get frustrated. Just stay calm when you’re doing it.”
He should know. Matt has won every class, school and county spelling competition he has entered since the fourth grade. He competed at the State Spelling Bee four times, placing third last year.
Zeeshan is a spelling-competition newcomer, winning the State Bee on his first try. He uses a unique practice method in his preparation — American Sign Language.
“American Sign Language helps me keep pace of the words,” he says, using his hands to demonstrate. “Like, if I spell super-fast, but my sign language is super-slow, I get lost on the word. It also helps me deal with the stress.”
Held March 11 at the C.A. Vines Arkansas 4-H Center in Little Rock, this was the fourth year for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas to sponsor the State Spelling Bee. Rob Roedel, corporate communications director, says it was the first time that the competition had to resort to a written finale.
“The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas consider it an honor to ensure that children throughout Arkansas experience a top-grade experience at the State Spelling Bee,” he says. “Our goal is to have participants from all 75 counties in our great state. And we are working diligently to do so.”
David Copeland, energy advisor for Today’s Power, Inc., wholly owned by Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., has coordinated the State Spelling Bee for the past four years.
He says the competition encourages students to step out of their comfort zone and gain a new level of confidence that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
“At the end of the Bee, much attention is placed on the champion, though it truly is a sport where there is no loser,” Copeland says. “While there are often a few tears shed and spellers that leave frustrated that they misspelled a word, in a few years, they will be able to recognize that the benefit of their participation was much greater than simply being able to spell a word.”
Carter Metcalf, 11, a fifth grader from Marion County, took third place. Five students were awarded fourth place, and 10 tied for fifth. Approximately 84,350 students from 422 schools in 55 counties participated in local and county contests that led up to the State Spelling Bee.
Zeeshan, the son of Mohammad Anower and Sharmin Afroz, will represent Arkansas in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland, May 30 to June 1.
Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas 2023 State Spelling Bee Finishers
- Zeeshan Anower, Sebastian County
- Matt Brodbent, Cross County
- Carter Metcalf, Marion County
- Kingston Mitchell, Saline County
- Ryan Fan, Washington County
- Eleanor Huff, White County
- Arianna Hill, Crittenden County
- Adalynn Moser, Clay County
- Samuel Barney, Benton County
- Ramsey Beck, Hempstead County
- Colten Breedlove, Pope County
- Yojit Acharya, Garland County
- Ximena Larsen, Sharp County
- Emilio Jack, Crawford County
- Geoffrey Gallinero, Jefferson County
- Kais Charaniya, Lonoke County
- Bronx Holland, Jackson County
- Kylie Richardson, Perry County