ATWATER — Astrid Arellano and Giselle Ramirez spelled down about 80 fellow elementary school students Wednesday to finish first and second, respectively, in the Merced County Spelling Bee held at the Atwater Community Center.
Astrid, who turns 12 on Friday, is a sixth-grader at Harmony Elementary School in Delhi. She spelled "ostracize" correctly and will advance to the state championship April 20 at the San Joaquin County Office of Education in Stockton.
"I feel really proud of myself," Astrid said. "If I study a lot, it is easy if I put my mind to it."
Astrid's mother, Mary Diaz, said she is happy for her daughter, who has been studying diligently for some time.
Previous words that she had encountered included "dilemma" and "correspondence." Astrid said she has been studying the spelling list for at least two months. She has competed in previous events but never went this far.
Osvaldo DeLuna, a coordinator for the sponsoring Merced County Office of Education and the wordmaster for the spelling bee, said the event went very well, that many parents were in attendance, and that the students did a phenomenal job.
Several other words the fourth- through sixth-graders from 40 elementary schools in the county went through included "ailment," "mathematician" and "ooze," DeLuna said.
Giselle, the runner-up who will advance to the state championships in Stockton, said she began preparing for Wednesday's bee in the middle of October after winning a spelling bee at her school, R.M. Miano Elementary School, in Los Banos.
"I feel very happy and proud of myself," Giselle said. "The hard work paid off."
Other words Giselle spelled correctly included "omission," "rehearsal," "persistent" and "Illinois." This was her first competition at the county level.
Giselle's mother, Maria Ramirez of Los Banos, said her daughter comes home from school and goes straight to the books rather than playing. She said Giselle has a photographic memory and wants to attend university at Harvard, Stanford or Yale.
"She's very smart and a special girl," Ramirez said. "I am so proud of her I don't know what to say. I knew she could do it."
"What I see that's important about the spelling bee is the chance for students to have their accomplishments take them outside of the classroom and into a different environment, which is a learning experience in itself," Valerie LeDuc, MCOE student events supervisor, said.
Words and definitions are given to students before they put their spelling skill into action. The word list is provided by the San Joaquin County Office of Education.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or email@example.com.