There was not just one champion at Wednesday night's Lake County Sectional Spelling Bee at in Deerfield.
In contrast to previous years where one Sectional champ was crowned, this year four students from each of the three Lake County Sectionals advance to the Lake County Finals on March 14 at College of Lake County in Grayslake.
At South Park School, the quartet includes Grace Chiou from St. Joseph School in Libertyville, Pranav Sivakumar from Barrington Middle School-Station, Pranav Guru from in Deerfield, and from in Lake Forest.
Chiou, Slvakumar and Guru were the first three to qualify after they correctly spelled their words in the eighth of nine rounds of competition, which lasted nearly three hours. The field began with 44 spellers and eventually narrowed to 10 by the seventh round.
Banta missed his word in the eighth round as did Jonah Hirsch from Alan B. Shepard Middle School in Deerfield. In the ninth round, Hirsch went first and missed his word which allowed Banta to become the fourth finals qualifier by correctly spelling the word, qwerty, which refers to the arrangement of keys on a computer keyboard.
Sivakumar is making his third consecutive trip to the Lake County Finals. Last year, he captured the Lake County competition and was the only speller from Illinois to advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee near Washington, D.C., where he placed among the top 30.