Speller looks to next year

Courtesy photo Christina Benitscheck made it through the second round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee but was eliminated from the third round of competition. The finals air on ABC-TV tonight from 6-8 p.m.

By Helena Rodriguez: CNJ staff writer

Christina Benitscheck didn’t earn her 15 seconds of fame by winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Wednesday, but perhaps a photo of her with a blue tongue will be her claim to fame.

The 11-year-old Clovis girl correctly spelled the word “factoid” in the second round of the national spelling bee in Washington, D.C. She was still eliminated from the third round, though, because of the implementation of a new written test that counts as well.

Students are given a written spelling test of 25 words, and points from this test and from the word they spell on stage are coupled as a determining factor in who makes it to the next round.

“She’s a little disappointed because she didn’t make it to the third round,” Christina’s mother, Judy Benitscheck, said. “You come all this way and you only get to spell one word on stage. But it’s her first year and she hopes to get a chance to come back. I’m really proud of her. She did great!”

With 286 spellers from around the country this year, Judy said the national spelling organization no longer continues the age-old practice of having students continuously spell words on stage until a winner outspells all the competition.

Now that she’s on the sidelines, Christina does not see the other spellers as her competitors. In fact, she’s rooting for her favorite spellers.

“When you get here, it’s all about making 285 friends,” said Christina, a home-schooled student who earned her slot in the national competition by winning the regional spelling bee in March at Clovis Community College.

“I’ve made a lot of friends. My main friend is from Montana and she’s still in the competition, so I’m rooting for her. She will be on TV (today), so that will be cool.”

Christina is also rooting for Matthew Evans of Albuquerque, the only other New Mexican competitor in the spelling bee.

“Even though I didn’t make it, I’ve had a great time,” Christina said. “That’s all that really matters. I had a great time and I made it here.”

As proof of her great time, Christina said a photo was taken of her showing off her tongue blue from eating a snow cone. Another photo was also taken of her sharing a jacket with a friend, with each of them having one arm in each sleeve. She said she has been told that one or the other photo will appear on TV.

When Christina gets home, she plans to get studying and hopes to spell her way into another Scripps National Spelling Bee. In the meantime, however, she’ll also be taking time to brush up on another skill, not spelling words, but singing words. She said she wants to be a singer when she grows up.