Could you spell “pusillanimous”?
How about “Machiavellian”?
These are just a couple of the words the competitors were asked to spell at the 2015 Coconino County Spelling Bee Saturday.
“We’ve got some good spellers this year,” said pronouncer James Hasapis.
The top spellers from 22 public, charter and private elementary and middle schools in Coconino County duked it out for 13 speedy rounds inside the Coconino High School mini-auditorium in Flagstaff Saturday morning for the chance to be the new Coconino County Spelling Bee champion.
“We had a lot of families and kids come from all over the county,” said Coconino County Superintendent of Schools Risha VanderWey. “It brings the county together.”
The winner was Katrina Vollmer, a sixth-grader at San Francisco de Asis Catholic School in Flagstaff, who finished the competition by spelling “deluxe.” She later said she was surprised to get such an easy word. It was her first year participating in the county spelling bee.
“She did well,” said Vollmer’s mother, Stella Lee. “I’m proud of her.”
The second-place award went to DeMiguel Elementary School fourth-grader Ryan Crane, whose older brothers, Austin and Lucas, are former county champions. Flagstaff Junior Academy sixth-grader Saja Gooding finished in third place.
Gooding was neck-and-neck with the other two finalists for several rounds, but was knocked out in the 12th round when she included an extra letter in the word “reckless.”
Crane held his own until the final round, when he was tripped up by the word “errand.”
“I thought he said ‘arid,’” Crane said afterward.
All three of the finalists spent a lot of time studying this year’s list of 450 potential spelling words from the Scripps National Spelling Bee website to prepare for the Coconino County Spelling Bee.
“My dad made me study 20 minutes every day until today,” Gooding said. “I studied in the morning, last night and every day. It was sort of intense.”
Gooding was also inspired by the 2006 movie “Akeelah and the Bee,” which is about a girl who participates in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
All the finalists said they love to read, which helped build their vocabularies. They also said they hope to come back to the spelling bee next year.
“I’m going to study probably like two hours a day,” Gooding said with a smile.
VanderWey said studying for spelling bees expands their vocabularies and gives them a greater understanding of how words are derived.
“I love spelling bees,” she said. “I think they’re super important in helping kids become future writers and poets and be able to articulate themselves in a different way.”
As the winner of the County Spelling Bee, Vollmer will advance to the Arizona Educational Foundation State Spelling Bee on March 21 at Eight/AZ PBS in downtown Phoenix. The winner of the state bee will represent Arizona at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. on May 28.
“Now, I have to study some more for the state,” Vollmer said. “I thought it would be all over today. I’m excited but dreading it.”
Vollmer won a $250 prize donated by the Flagstaff Rotary Club. The Williams Rotary Club awarded a $150 prize to Crane and the Grand Canyon Rotary Club awarded Gooding a $100 prize. The Rotary Clubs also provide experienced judges to determine if the contestants spelled the words correctly.