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To bee or not to bee
Yuba students show off their spelling skills
English may not be Zhang Vang's first language, but the 10-year-old sure knows how to spell in it.
After correctly spelling "lieutenant" and "mannequin," the Linda Elementary School fifth-grader was declared the winner of the Yuba County Elementary Level Spelling Bee 2009. His mastery of spelling beat eight other competitors in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades, all champions of their own schools.
Zhang, who was raised speaking Hmong but learned English in kindergarten, studies for four to six hours every day with his parents' help. "It's fun," he said.
His fail-safe method for accuracy was to ask Spelling Bee Master Leslie Cena, "Can you repeat it?" before spelling out almost any word.
Other competitors had their own methods.
Some bit their lips or nodded their heads silently to each letter before tentatively spelling out a word. Others grabbed the microphone and let loose, rattling off letters without a glance to their tablets.
At the intermediate level bee, Bear River School eighth-grader Jordan Garcia spelled her way to victory over six other seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders with "characteristic" and "charismatic."
The ironic part? She doesn't even like spelling.
"It's hard sometimes," Jordan said. Her participation in the county bee was "just to see how far I can go."
Now she is looking forward to representing Yuba County at the state spelling bee, May 16, at California State University, Sonoma, in Rohnert Park.
Those who did not win hemmed and hawed over their consolation prizes, which included the DVD "Deal or No Deal," a "Roget's Thesaurus" and a game of horseshoes.
Many accepted their certificates with smiles on their faces.
"My mom told me to have fun," said Alena Layton, a fourth-grader at Cobblestone Elementary in Plumas Lake. "It's not just about winning."
At the intermediate level, the words quickly foiled even a few school champions. "Acquittal" and "battalion" proved to be too much for four of five remaining spellers, but when at least one competitor was needed to vie against the last speller standing, they all had a second — or third — chance.
Not missing a single one of the words foiling her competitors, Garcia said she could not believe her luck.
"I was like, 'Yes!' and then they called them back and I was like, 'Oh, man!" the winner said.
It was also difficult for her family to watch, they said. They all help her study.
"She forces me to," confessed her 8-year-old brother, Jesse. "I don't even get paid to do it."
But it has helped make him a good speller, he said. One day he hopes he might stand in his sister's place.
"Then I can make Jordan read the words to me," he said.
Words the spellers missed
Contact Appeal-Democrat reporter Ashley Gebb at 749-4724 or email@example.com.