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Merced County student spellers know their words

From left, fifth-grader Hayden Soares of Elim Elementary in Hilmar took third place; Jasmine Judge, sixth-grader at R.M. Miano Elementary in Los Banos received first place; and second-grader Naomi Khosalim of Charleston Elementary in Los Banos won second place in the Merced County Office of Education elementary school spelling bee competition Wednesday.
From left, fifth-grader Hayden Soares of Elim Elementary in Hilmar took third place; Jasmine Judge, sixth-grader at R.M. Miano Elementary in Los Banos received first place; and second-grader Naomi Khosalim of Charleston Elementary in Los Banos won second place in the Merced County Office of Education elementary school spelling bee competition Wednesday. Nathan Quevedo

“Quasi” and “sarsaparilla” were the words to know for elementary and middle school winners of spelling bees held Tuesday and Wednesday by the Merced County Office of Education.

Jasmine Judge, 11, a sixth-grader at R.M. Miano Elementary School in Los Banos, bested 79 other fourth- through sixth-grade contenders from 42 elementary schools in the county at Tuesday’s elementary spelling bee held at the Atwater Community Center. The runner-up was sixth-grader Naomi Khosalim of Charleston Elementary School in Los Banos.

Carlos Magana, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Los Banos Junior High School, won the middle school spelling competition over 34 other competitors from 16 middle schools.

Carlos and runner-up David Chen, a seventh-grader at Cruickshank Middle School in Merced, qualified to attend the state spelling bee next spring at the San Joaquin County Office of Education in Stockton.

Jasmine correctly spelled “quasi” while Carlos mastered sarsaparilla during Wednesday’s competition at the county schools office in Merced.

Jasmine’s father, Navneet Judge of Los Banos, said his daughter had memorized the elementary and junior high school spelling lists. He said she’s a good speller who was coached by her older sister, Anmol Kaur, now a Pacheco High School student and a three-time spelling bee winner.

Jasmine and her sister worked every day in two- to three-hour sessions over the Thanksgiving holiday break and weeks before that on the spelling lists, taking off only Thanksgiving Day. Her father said he and his wife, Simran K. Judge, were proud of their daughter and told her the hard work of preparation would be paid back in the results.

Carlos Magana’s mother, Maria Aguilar of Los Banos, said her son studied the spelling list every day after school and called her excitedly right after his victory. He had competed in previous spelling bees as a fifth- and sixth-grader.

Stacie Arancibia, MCOE events coordinator, was impressed with the students’ competence.

“They were great kids, very smart,” Arancibia said. “You can tell they studied hard and took it very seriously. It was nice to see the support the students got from parents, proctors and volunteers.”

John Magneson, coordinator of media and technology at MCOE, was word master for the middle school competition. He said being the word master is fun but definitely a challenge, requiring nearly eight hours of advance preparation studying the word lists.

“They did a wonderful job,” Magneson said. “It went really well. It was a difficult competition, and we gave them some very hard words.”

Barbara Cole, coordinator of the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment program and English language arts program at MCOE, was word master for the elementary spelling bee. She changed some words on the spelling list and had to move the students up to the middle school list.

“I love it; it’s one of my favorite mornings,” Cole said. “They know their words.”

First- and second-place winners from both competitions represent the county at the state championships. The elementary study word list is provided by the San Joaquin County Office of Education, which holds the elementary state spelling bee championship. The Marin County Office of Education provides the junior high word list and holds the state championship in San Rafael.

In the elementary competition, fifth-grader Hayden Soares of Elim Elementary School in Hilmar finished in third place. In the middle school competition, Astrid Arellano, an eighth-grader at Harmony Elementary School in Delhi, finished in third place.

Sun-Star staff writer Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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