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Spirit of Acadiana: A champion speller named “J-O-N-A-H”

Jonah Stout
Posted at 10:05 PM, Jun 07, 2021

His name is Jonah Stout, and he is an 8th-grader at John Paul the Great Academy. He's a speller, and he wants to go all the way to the top.

Cue Jonah reading from the 2021 Scripps Spelling Bee Competition program.

"It says 'Jonah Samuel Stout, age 12, Grade 7, Kiwanis Club of Lafayette, Lafayette, Louisiana, John Paul the Great Academy.'”

It's official. Jonah Stout is proudly listed as a participant in the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition. Beginning this Saturday on ESPN-3, he will virtually compete in the preliminary rounds with the eventual goal being making it to the national stage for the finals in July.

"The first nine rounds are online,” he begins, “and then the top 10-or-12 will go to Orlando, Florida, and keep spelling until one of them remains or until all of the words are spelled."

First came the spelling bees at individual schools and then the regional rounds left us with 209 spellers in the United States. Repeat: Only 209 spellers were left standing, which is quite an accomplishment for this lover of books and languages.

“But I still didn't think I'd get to be one of the top 209 spellers in the nation,” says Stout. "It feels really good. I'm really happy with what I've done, and I'd be even happier to get even farther.”

He's constantly practicing and studying these days, often utilizing a Scripps spelling program, and when he needs a break, there's another love that helps him regroup: Music…the piano. Jonah looks serene, but he admits there's a bit of anxiety about this spelling bee.

“You nervous?” I ask, a question to which Jonah quickly responds. “Yeh. It's a large competition. It’s the entire country. Countries are large."

Jonah says he isn't really focused on winning, just on making a good showing; and the most important word for Jonah Stout is the next word. His long-range strategy is to follow the advice of a recent JPG graduate-- step-by-step, word-by-word.

“Small possible steps. Take the small steps you can take and those amount to a great distance.”

Prelims are Saturday, quarterfinals Tuesday, with the national semis the next weekend.

(ESPN-3 will air the preliminary rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee beginning Saturday morning, June 12th).

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