Rainy skies couldn’t dampen the spirits of nearly 100 of the county’s top spellers and their families and supporters as they gathered on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016 at UCSC for the annual county-wide Spelling Bee, sponsored by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. The students, selected as the top two spellers from their schools, represented over forty public and private schools from throughout Santa Cruz County.
The Santa Cruz County Spelling Bee is a written event. Spellmasters (Mardi Browning of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, serving for her 29th year, and Michael McCawley of UCSC) read a word, provide a definition and use the word in a sentence. Then each student is given fifteen seconds to write the word. Volunteer proctors check the spelling of each word as the bee proceeds. After approximately sixty to eighty words have been spelled, the total number correct for each student is calculated and the student with the most correct spellings wins.
Emotions ran high in the Elementary Division, where students in grades 4-6 cheered or groaned as the correct spelling of each word was revealed. After correctly spelling seventy-seven of seven-eight words, Damian Cardenas, of San Lorenzo Valley Middle School emerged as the county’s top speller in this division, correctly spelling words like “silhouette” and “aluminum.” This is Damian’s second county-wide spelling bee trophy. Last year, he placed third, after a hotly-contested spell-off that determined the second, third and fourth place finishers.
This year, second place went to J.J. Kim-Ebio of Alianza Charter School, who correctly spelled seventy-five of the seventy-eight words, including “chromosome” and “decelerate.” J.J. was also one of the contenders in last year’s spell off, tying for second initially and ending up placing fourth after the spell-off that included Damian.
Though there were clear winners for first and second place this year, awarding Zane Escoto, of Ocean Grove Charter School, the third place trophy required a spell-off. Fittingly enough, the winning word in the spell-off for third place was “etymology.”
A smaller field of focused seventh through ninth graders gathered in another classroom for the Junior Division. After correctly spelling sixty-six of seventy words, including challenges such as “reconnaissance” and “mnemonic”, Pratham Rathi, of Aptos Junior High School received the first place trophy. Second place went to Jacob Pedlar of Ocean Grove Charter School and third place to Rina Rossi, of Pacific Collegiate School, who placed second at last year’s event.
The top two students in each division will represent Santa Cruz County at state-wide spelling bees to be held this spring.
Winners received prizes donated by community businesses, including Boardwalk passes, Roller Palladium passes, and trophies from Brinks Awards and Signs. All contestants enjoyed cookies provided by Pacific Cookie Company and apple juice courtesy of Martinelli’s. Additional Santa Cruz County Spelling Bee sponsors include: University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Sentinel, Darco Printing and Paper, Bay Tree Book Store, Tutoring Clubs of Santa Cruz County, Choi’s Tae Kwan Do, Papa Murphy’s, Taco Bell and Sports Design.
Congratulations to all Spelling Bee participants for a job well done!