Leo Furlong, a fifth grader at Burris Laboratory School in Muncie, is the champion of the 2024 Ball State PBS Regional Spelling Bee.

Mr. Furlong’s winning word was “jalapeño.” The spicy competition, involving nearly 40 spellers from several local school systems, lasted 12 rounds.

The first runner-up was Kim Servan, a fifth grader from Royerton (Ind.) Elementary School. Second runner-up was a tie between Ainsley Falloon, a sixth grader at Northside Middle School in Muncie, and TaMerra Edwards, an eighth grader from Lee L. Driver Middle School in Winchester, Ind.

Spellers competed at Sursa Performance Hall on March 9 in an event that will be broadcast on Ball State PBS at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 6, and at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11. It will also be streamed on BallStatePBS.org, the Ball State Public Media mobile app, and the PBS App.

Felicia Gray, an educator at Burris, served as pronouncer for the competition, and the judges—tasked with tracking every word and verifying spelling accuracy—were Stephanie Wiechmann, IPR managing editor and host, and Alesya Rathinasamy, former Ball State PBS Regional Spelling Bee Champion.

Spellers studied “Words of the Champions,” the 4,000-word list provided by the Scripps National Spelling Bee, to prepare for the competition. The Bee reaches millions of students across the country and in other parts of the world with the classroom materials it provides to enrolled schools.

Mr. Furlong advances to compete in the 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee later this Spring near Washington, D.C. The semifinals on May 29 and the finals on May 30 will be televised on ION.

In addition to qualifying for the national competition, Mr. Furlong wins these prizes:

  • The Samuel Louis Sugarman Award—a 2024 United States Mint Proof Set provided by Jay Sugarman, chairman and CEO of iStar Financial, in honor of his father. Mr. Furlong will receive the prize in the Summer.
  • Britannica Online Premium—a one-year subscription for the premier online resource from Encyclopædia Britannica.
  • Merriam-Webster Unabridged Online—a one-year subscription for the official word source for all levels of competition for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Epic Family—a one-year subscription for the world’s largest digital library for kids, with access to 40,000+ kids’ books, videos, and audiobooks.
  • Tynker—a one-year home subscription for a leading K-12 creative coding platform plus eight live, 1-on-1 online coding classes.
  • All-expenses-paid trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee
  • Ray Ban sunglasses with case from Family Vision Care
  • $50 Visa gift card, hat, and T-shirt from Sam Pierce Chevrolet
  • $25 gift card from Dave’s Video

Ball State PBS has hosted the Regional Spelling Bee event for eight years. The competition encourages the exploration of words and lifelong curiosity, with a focus on helping students set goals and dedicate time to study and prepare. Participation in the bee program also provides an opportunity for students to gain experience in public speaking and poise under pressure.

“This was a great spelling bee with fantastic spellers from all over the region,” said Ashley Mann, community education manager at Ball State Public Media. “It was fun watching them think through their words and do so great!”

Ball State University’s Teachers College contributed the funds to cover the Scripps entry fees for almost 50 schools to participate in this year’s Regional Spelling Bee. The support underscores the college’s dedication to fostering educational opportunities and empowering young learners in our region, according to Dr. Kendra Lowery, Teachers College’s associate dean for equity and engagement.

“We are pleased to provide financial support to enable our local schools to participate in this year’s Ball State PBS Regional Spelling Bee,” Dr. Lowery said. “By investing in initiatives like the Spelling Bee, we reinforce our mission to promote equity and engagement in education, ensuring every student has the chance to thrive. We celebrate this year’s champion, Leo, and the runners-up, and commend all the participants for their efforts and their grace under pressure.”

The Ball State PBS Regional Spelling Bee was presented this year by Family Vision Care. School Fees Sponsor was Ball State University Teachers College. Additional support was provided by Avila Orthodontics; Leland C. Wilhoite, DDS, Navient Community Fund; Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities; Scott E. Trout, DDS; Muncie Optimist Club; and Sam Pierce Chevrolet.