Can you spell stellar students?

Four Rocklin finalists headed for Central Valley Spelling Bee
By: Teresa O'Hanlon, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Despite the popularity of spell check, orthography is not a lost art. The ability to spell words correctly beckoned more than 200,000 Northern California students to participate earlier this school year in local contests. The goal is to inch superlative spellers closer to the the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the largest educational competition in the English-speaking world. The spelling bee is open to students in the third through eighth grades. One hundred and thirty finalists from nine counties earned a spot in the Sacramento Bee sponsored written spelling exam in January. Top spellers from the written test advancing to oral competition include four Rocklin students who will compete in the 29th annual Central Valley Spelling Bee on March 7 in Sacramento. The champion of the regional contest will represent the Central Valley with an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Rocklin’s four finalists are spelling phenoms to say the least. These are students who spend hours memorizing how to spell words that most folks have probably never heard of. For Granite Oaks Middle School seventh-grader and finalist, Steven Abramowitz, focusing on the most challenging word categories, such as those derived from surnames is important. “Eponyms, definitely eponyms, are the most difficult,” said the 13-year-old, adding he does not get nervous on stage during oral competition. “Eponyms are words derived from names and I studied a long list.” Sweta Parija, a seventh-grader from Western Sierra Collegiate Academy and a seasoned speller is returning for the second year as a finalist in the Central Valley Bee. Parija practices spelling about three hours per day and has a plan for remaining calm during oral competition. “When I spell the word I look at my parents in the audience instead of the pronouncer,” said Parija, 12. “It makes me feel like I am pronouncing at home.” To date the toughest word Parija has encountered is “schadenfreude,” a German noun meaning satisfaction for someone else’s misfortune. Spring View Middle School eighth-grader and finalist Alison Stoner credits her spelling success to a love of reading. “I read all the time,” shared Stoner, 14. “I started reading on my own at the age of four….so, of course, I got addicted to books. I learned probably three-quarters of my vocabulary through books instead of other people or dictionaries.” Overcoming consonant clusters is a focus for Rocklin Academy sixth-grader and finalist Shaurya Grover. He believes the spelling of German words is the most difficult to memorize and is practicing various root word directories whenever time allows. “I am trying to memorize as many words as I can, whenever I can,” said Grover, 11. “I always try to eat well before the test so I can focus on the competition.” Central Valley Spelling Bee Director Molly Evangelisti started the oral competition 29 years ago with just 12 children. Today Molly encourages thousands of students to study, enter local contests and join the audience at the Central Valley Bee. On Wednesday, March 7, 57 of the best spellers in Northern California will take the stage at 9:30 a.m. at the Scottish Rite Center. Evangelisti hopes to have a winner by 1 p.m. “I feel .great about having this huge honor and the chance to advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee,” said Abramowitz, who feels fortunate his mom helps him create Power Points to prepare for the big competition. Stoner, who at first thought the whole idea of a spelling bee was pure enjoyment of the art, is now on the road to something she could hardly have imagined when she spelled her first competitive word. “I’d have to say I feel blindsided or caught off-guard because I joined the school’s spelling bee for fun,” she said. “I didn’t even know the champion got anything besides, you know, a special announcement from the office and some Skittles.” ________ Know and Go What: Central Valley Spelling Bee When: 9:30 a.m., Wednesday March 7 Where: Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H Street, Sacramento