Students prepare for national spelling bee

Ryan Lengerich

Area students are “sanguine” about a chance to visit Washington, D.C. — and many of them can spell that word, too.
Sanguine, an adjective meaning excited or optimistic, and obscure words like it could pop up in the upcoming weeks as eastern New Mexico elementary and junior high students participate in their school’s spelling bees.
Winners from area schools will qualify for the March 6 regional spelling bee at Clovis Community College. The regional champion will travel to Washington for the Scripps National Spelling Bee on June 1-3.
The region’s defending champion, Michael Martinez, an eighth-grader at Tucumcari Middle School, won his school’s bee again this year. He clinched the title when he successfully spelled “peaceable.”
Martinez was tripped up in the first round of last year’s national competition by the word “borborygmus.”
According to the national bee’s Web site, students who are younger than 16 and have not passed beyond eighth grade are eligible. The bee is in its 77th year.
Barry Elementary Principal Carrie Bunce said one of her students, Jessie Saville, qualified for national competition in 2002. Bunce said sending a student to Washington gives the school a sense of pride.
“It is real exciting for the school and everyone who is involved in it,” Bunce said. “We are proud of it. It is just like a kudos for our good accomplishment and our students’ hard work.”
Bunce said their school’s spelling bee is held in the school gym and about 60 to 80 students compete. Herself and two teachers officiate the event and she said the words are selected at random from a spelling bee book provided by the Clovis News Journal, the bee’s sponsor.
Jessie’s brother Mitch Saville won the Barry Elementary competition last year, but the family moved to Hawaii. With the Saville dynasty departed, Bunce said there are no favorites entering this year’s competition.
“Everyone comes into it equally and I think the kids do, too. They think they have an equal opportunity,” Bunce said. “Everybody enjoys it. They cheer them on and it is kind of a big school effort.”
Bunce, who is officiating her sixth bee, said it is often impressive when a child spells a difficult word, and the final contestants are the most tense.
“When you get down to the final six it is pretty nerve racking,” she said. “The kids are nervous because they have made it that far.”
TV Hagenah of the Quay County Sun contributed to this report.