Cherry Mathis

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Thanks, Cherry; you made us proud

In a time when too many students lack motivation–and parental encouragement– to pursue academic excellence, it’s been refreshing to report the remarkable record of Batesville sisters Meg and Cherry Mathis, champion spellers who between them have made five trips to the Scripps National Spelling  Bee. The family just returned from Washington, D.C. where Cherry placed 13th out of 288 spellers last Friday.

As anyone who watched the bee on television can attest, there were no slackers. Cherry gave a stellar performance, lasting through seven rounds, ending her quest with an educated–though erroneous-guess at the word “sciuromorph,” which means related to primitive rodents like squirrels and gophers. In the bee’s preliminaries, she had been one of only three spellers to score a perfect 100 on the written test.

That sort of achievement was not easily accomplished. As her elder sister Meg had done, Cherry devoted countless hours each week–even in the summer–to studying spelling, languages, word derivations, pre-fixes, suffixes and vocabulary.

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It was not a solitary effort. Meg stepped in as the experienced vet to coach her sister. Her dad and mom, John and Keiko, helped. There were relatives and friends who e-mailed new words.

The family’s effort paid off in expense-paid trips to the national bee, sponsored by the Scripps newspaper chain which treats spellers and their families to first-class accommodations like those usually afforded champion athletes.

Like the Super Bowl moment when NFL player DeShea Townsend proclaimed to all the world that he is a graduate of “South Panola University,” Cherry let viewers on the national telecast know that she is proud to be from Batesville, Mississippi.

Cherry, your hometown is proud of you.