Reader submitted content: Portales eight-grader spells way to state competition for third time

Betty Williamson

S-T-A-T-E C-H-A-M-P-I-O-N.

Those are two words that eighth-grade spelling whiz Mathew Sanchez hopes to add to his resume after March’s state Spelling Bee in Albuquerque.

Mathew earned the right to represent Roosevelt County for the third and final time after surviving a 25-round showdown with sixth-grader Nicholas Brown in the senior division of the 2011 Roosevelt County Spelling Bee held at ENMU Saturday.

Eight students competed for the county crown, including the winner and runner-up from the junior division, Braden Bridges and Austin Harless, who had also finished one and two at their school, Lindsey-Steiner Elementary School, in a bee held earlier this year. Austin held on with the seniors to capture third place, after he misspelled trauma in the seventh round.

Then it was old rivals Mathew and Nicholas, who continued with machine-like precision until a short break was called after the 21st round by veteran pronouncer Louise Shoemaker to allow the contestants to stretch.

When spelling resumed, Nicholas finally faltered in the 25th round on “regatta,” which he spelled with only one “t.” That proved fortunate for Mathew (who also spells his name with only one “t”), and he spelled “matinee” correctly for the win.

The 13-year-old Mathew added a third $500 ENMU scholarship to his collection, as well as a plaque and gift card from Hastings. More importantly, he’ll have another chance to spell at the New Mexico State Spelling Bee and try to earn that long-dreamed-of trip to Washington, D.C., for the national bee.

In his last two appearances at the state competition, Matthew finished “about 40th and 25th,” he said.

Mathew was cheered to victory at Saturday’s bee by his parents, Mark and Lisa Sanchez, and his brother, Marcus, as well as “Uncle Rodger from Portales, Aunt Priscilla from Albuquerque, and great-grandma Rita from Puerto de Luna.” Other relatives stayed in touch from as far away as Washington and California, receiving regular text updates for the annual family event.

At the March state competition in Albuquerque, “the family group gets even bigger,” Mathew’s mom said, and all will be rooting from the audience in matching T-shirts.

As for Nicholas, he’s relieved to have Mathew retiring after this bee, and he plans to try for a repeat appearance in the future.

“I was very impressed by the level of preparation these spellers showed,” said Carol Erwin, director of Writing Programs at ENMU and director of the county bee. “I am pleased that we had participation from Floyd, Elida, Lindsey-Steiner and Portales Junior High for this event.”