Spelling her way to the top

All that can be heard by each competitor when her word is announced is the silence of the room and the sound of her own heartbeat. As she spells out each letter, she prays not to hear the sound of the bell, indicating a mistake.

Anna Anhel earned first place in the MacLean Elementary School Bee this past weekend

Anna Anhel earned first place in the MacLean Elementary School Bee this past weekend

Grade 4 Rossland student moves on to regional spelling bee

All that can be heard by each competitor when her word is announced is the silence of the room and the sound of her own heartbeat. As she spells out each letter, she prays not to hear the sound of the bell, indicating a mistake.

That’s how a group of Grade 4 girls felt while competing in the MacLean Elementary School Bee held last weekend, but one lucky winner is now prepping for a regional competition.

“When it was before your turn, you’d get all tense,” said competitor Maddie Kinghorn. “It’s also sort of scary because you’re looking at your parents and it’s sort of embarrassing if you get it wrong.”

A group of 12 girls met every Tuesday after school to touch up their spelling skills in preparation for the local bee held at the seniors centre in Rossland on Saturday.

Difficult words all the way up to the Grade 6 level were asked – like “heartthrob” and “giddiness” – knocking out competitors and leaving the remaining three in a battle of words.

“Like my grandmother said, you have to be a good loser, keep your head up and save the crying for home,” said third-place winner Tyra Delaire.

It came down to Delaire, Sammy Gaul and Anna Anhel in the last 27 rounds. But in the end, Anhel prevailed with the word “cashier.”

“It was kind of nerve-wracking,” said Anhel, who loves to spell and said her mom constantly tests her by asking her to spell any big words the student uses.

Denise Currie volunteered to help prep the girls for the challenge, an interest the Grade 5 Glenmerry math teacher has harboured since her oldest daughter won the regional competition in 2008 and went onto compete at the national level where she earned ninth place, prior to competing at the Scripps National Spelling Bee held in Washington, D.C.

“What’s really neat is even though they’re there to win, all the kids are cheering each other on,” she said.

The weekend bee was made possible thanks to prizes from community sponsors including Café Books, Jelly Bean Junction and the Nelson and District Credit Union, which gave the first-place prize of a $100 RESP contribution.

Anhel will now compete at the March 5 regional bee in Kelowna in hopes of advancing onto the Postmedia Canspell National Bee, an initiative launched in 2005 that is designed to engage middle school students by celebrating excellence in academic achievement and encouraging positive study habits.