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Can you spell neurasthenia? Sixth-grader can

Neurasthenia was the word — and Allison Melander of Atwater mastered it.

The 12-year-old sixth-grader from Peggy Heller School in Atwater won the Merced County Spelling Bee for fourth- through sixth-graders Wednesday morning at the Atwater Community Center. Now she advances to the state championships April 21 in Stockton.

Allison, the daughter of Steven and Jackie Melander, admitted she was very nervous going into the event for 83 students from throughout Merced County. Neurasthenia is a term for exhaustion caused by mental strain or overwork.

The winning student started studying a 148-page list of about 700 words two months ago. She said she loves spelling and it improved her writing skills.

Her mom said her daughter has been working extremely hard on the spelling words and has lots more to do for the state finals. She won the school spelling bee to advance to the county event featuring students from 38 schools.

"She has a lot of work ahead of her but she can do it," Jackie Melander said.

Focused students

David Duran, assistant superintendent of human resources for the Atwater Elementary School District, was one of three judges for the event.

He said all the spelling competitors were very focused, serious and intent about what they were doing. He thinks they may have been even sharper than previous years' contestants.

Second-place winner Annol Kaur, an R.M. Miano Elementary School sixth-grader from Los Banos, advances to the state championship. Coming in third was sixth-grader Kevin Rubio, also from Miano School.

Valerie LeDuc, events and activities supervisor for the sponsoring Merced County Office of Education, said Wednesday's event went well and all the young students were on their best behavior.

The state championship will be April 21 at the San Joaquin County Office of Education in Stockton. Seventh- and eighth-graders are competing today in a spelling bee in the Clark Newbold Room of the Merced County Office of Education at 13th and M streets in Merced.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or