Eighth-grader Juan Contreras topped 11 contestants to claim the Portales school district Spanish spelling bee title Friday morning.
Contreras, who edged a fifth-grade student in the final round, will participate in the state spelling bee contest in Albuquerque on Feb. 7. Contreras finished third in last year’s competition, but on Friday beat out Eliana Perez in a tough challenge between the final two participants. Both participants competed last year for the first time.
Perez misspelled ‘juguete,’ which means toy in English, and Contreras was able to spell it correctly along with another word to clinch the victory.
“I tried my best because I know I won’t be able to compete next year,” Contreras said, noting only students from the fourth to eighth grades can compete. “I like talking in Spanish better than talking in English. A lot of kids don’t know Spanish. It’s an advantage that we have that other kids don’t.”
Perez is the alternate in case Contreras is unable to attend the state competition.
“This time I was more nervous than last year,” Perez said. “I didn’t study. My parents are Mexican they know mostly Spanish. I like talking to my parents in Spanish.”
There were four judges from the Portales public schools along with Elvira Iturralde, a fourth-grade teacher at Valencia Elementary.
“I want all of them to know that we (judges and faculty) are proud of them,” Iturralde said. “They should all feel good. Some of them participate in Spanish and English contests. Their parents are so proud for what they have achieved and that they are able to broaden their horizons.”
Iturralde said there were previous competitions within the classes to determine the 11 finalists.