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Pooja Dayaratna, a seventh grader from Farmington Middle School, is the champion of the Southeast Missouri Regional Spelling Bee held March 27 at Three Rivers College. The championship word was “thrall.” Dayaratna will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which this year will be primarily a virtual event because of COVID restrictions.

At Saturday’s regional spelling bee, 29 students from 17 Southeast Missouri counties competed. The Southeast Missouri Regional Spelling Bee is held annually at Three Rivers College.

Due to COVID, the national spelling bee’s preliminary and semifinal rounds will be virtual. Ten to 12 finalists will meet on July 8 at Walt Disney World in Florida for the final event which will be televised on ESPN.

“We all think Pooja has an excellent chance of doing well in the national competition,” said Associate Professor of English Mark Sanders, the coordinator of the Southeast Missouri Regional Spelling Bee. “We hope to see her in the finals on ESPN.”

Also placing in the championship round were second place Colby Armes, fourth grader at St. Joseph Catholic School in Farmington; third place Rose Johnson, seventh grader at Poplar Bluff Junior High; fourth place (tied) Brylee Jackson, eighth grader at Cooter High School, and Mollie Moore, seventh grader at South Pemiscot Elementary School; sixth place (tied) Trey Heeb, eighth grader at Kennett Middle School, and Claire Funke, seventh grader at Poplar Bluff Junior High; and eighth place (tied) Jakob Callis, eighth grader at Holcomb High School, Clare Maloney, sixth grader at St. Joseph Catholic School in Farmington, and Cammie Pritchard, sixth grader at South Pemiscot Elementary School.

Three Rivers College has sponsored the regional Bee event for more than a decade. The competition encourages students to set goals and dedicate time to study and prepare. Participation also provides an opportunity for students to gain experience in public speaking and performing under pressure.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee provides the list of words for the regional competition. The Bee reaches an estimated 11 million students across the country and in other parts of the world with the classroom materials it provides to enrolled schools. The purpose of the Bee is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts, and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.

Three Rivers College is committed to contributing to the quality of life in Southeast Missouri with quality, affordable higher education opportunities and community services that support and encourage the economic, civic, and cultural vitality of the region. For more information about college and workforce programs and upcoming events, visit

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