Zia Elementary fifth-grader advances to national bee

Zia Elementary fifth-grader Lucas Donaldson, 10, waits in his seat for the next round during the 2006 Regional Spelling Bee on Saturday at Clovis Community College. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer

Stephanie Stancell did the prerequisite work on “prerequisite,” studying the word and practicing its spelling, she said. But when her chance came to win the 2006 Regional Spelling Bee, she left off the “e” at the end of the word.

Zia Elementary School fifth-grader Lucas Donaldson pounced on the opening, spelling the word his opponent missed, along with “census,” “minuend,” “bibliotherapy,” “alkaline,” “asterisk,” “precinct” and “vaporize.”

Students from Curry, Roosevelt and Quay counties ranged in age from 9 to 14 in the annual event sponsored by Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico on Saturday morning at Clovis Community College.

Lucas advances to the 79th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. In addition to receiving a plaque, he also won a gigantic dictionary that weighed almost as much as him; a $100 U.S. Savings Bond, and a free class at CCC in six years.

Martha Rivas, 14, of Yucca Junior High School was among the four oldest of the 33 contestants, and came in third. After being eliminated, she wiped her eyes with a tissue from the judges’ table.

“Dang, I knew it,” she said before putting her hands on her face. The word was “philharmonic,” but Rivas spelled “filharmonic.”

Pronouncer Carol Nash said she’s participated in the bee for 38 years. She reassured the kids by telling them that she too misspelled a crucial word in her eighth-grade spelling bee: “nonsense,” she said.

Even judges had to look up some words to verify they weren’t homonyms, or words with the same pronunciation but different spellings.

When Barry Elementary schooler Shannon Spurgeon, 11, spelled “pagan” as “pagen,” judges thumbed through the dictionary to make sure it wasn’t a homonym, and she was eliminated.

Les Donaldson said his son studied nightly for the bee for a least one half-hour. And Lucas said he was nervous but excited to go to D.C.
Stephanie said she also studied every night for the bee, sometimes as many as 100 words, and is happy she came in second this year, a notch above getting third place last year, she said.

“I like trying to win,” said Stephanie, a home-school student who dreams of being an interior decorator and winning the bee next year. “Spelling is lots of fun.” Each of the contestants made it to the regional bee as winners of school contests.