Frank Wright 8th-grader wins county Spelling Bee

Daniel Lemus

Spelling Bee Photo Archive can be found HERE.

EL CENTRO — Daniel Lemus, an eighth-grader from Frank Wright Middle School, is Imperial County’s new king of spelling after winning the 17th annual Regional Spelling Bee on Thursday evening, March 24.

A confident speller throughout the evening, the 14-year-old from Imperial showed little hesitation when he correctly spelled “posthaste” on stage at the Jimmie Cannon Theater for the Performing Arts at Southwest High in El Centro.

Daniel will now be the Imperial Valley’s representative at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in late May.

Calm, cool, and collected all throughout the bee, Daniel just smiled and clapped his hands when he was announced as the winner of the Imperial County Office of Education event.

Daniel said he hopes to show the country “we are the Imperial County and we are able to go to a national competition,” something he expressed in his on stage interview with bee emcee, Michael Garcia, a curriculum coordinator with ICOE.

“I’m very excited,” Daniel told the Calexico Chronicle after winning the local bee. “It was really nice to see everyone watching and supporting me and see everyone else here in the theater.”

It was Daniel’s first time making it to the regional competition, having competed multiple times at the school level.

Daniel attributes his success to his love of reading, paying attention to the words, and also consuming different types of media, including video games, music, and more.

The evening started with 37 competitors from 19 schools on stage, facing words that ranged from “potato” to “plutonomy,” courtesy of the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary. The students went through 10 rounds of fast-paced spelling, with students eliminated along the way.

Pronouncer John Lazarcik, ICOE’s STEM coordinator, gave the spellers the option of hearing the word multiple times, the definition, root language origins, and use in a sentence to help them determine how to spell it.

Some even used little tricks to figure out how to spell a word, like spelling out words with a bit of a beat. Daniel himself at one point spelled out a word with his finger by tracing letters in the palm of his hand.

All the students interviewed seemed to express some level of pride that they made it the regional event.

“I was nervous at first, but I felt great when I passed the first round,” said Luis Martinez-Miranda, a 9-year-old fourth-grader from Jefferson Elementary in Calexico. “I like how you have to say each word and memorize them.”

A second Jefferson student, 11-year-old Rene Leon Montoya, made it all the way to the sixth round as a finalist in his first-ever county spelling bee but was eliminated for misspelling the word “goading.” Rene said he plans to return for another shot at the championship trophy next year.

“It felt great to know that I was able to get that far,” Rene said. “I could’ve gotten it, but those words were those that we didn’t study.”

Maximus Aguilar Rios, a 10-year-old fifth-grade student from Bill E. Young Jr. Middle School in Calipatria, said he spelled all of his words out about five times each time he practiced them. He was disappointed he didn’t get very far but is wanting to try again next year.

“Sometimes is felt like someone was stepping on my chest when I tried to breath, but I got through it,” he said. “I’m going to try again next year just to make another shot at it.”

The runner-up for the evening was Kristabella Cardiel, a 13-year-old eighth-grader from Wilson Junior High School, who went back and forth with Daniel for the final two rounds, before she was eliminated in the final moments by the word “turbines.”

“I was really nervous, but I’m glad to have gotten it over with,” Kristabella said. “I was disappointed when I lost because I knew the word, I just hadn’t taken into account the definition.”

All who competed in the county spelling bee received a swag bag at the end of the night from ICOE as well as the applause from the audience as they walked off the stage. There was also a healthy number of people watching from home, as ICOE livestreamed the spelling bee. More than 360 people had viewed the stream as of Friday morning, March 25.

ICOE is paying for Daniel and one parent to attend the national bee in late May. However, Imperial County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Todd Finnell said ICOE’s Education Foundation is actively fundraising and seeking donations to send additional family members.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee will see around 200 students from around the country vie for a chance at $50,000 and the coveted National Spelling Bee trophy.

Last year, Jaedillene Laurino, then a seventh-grader at Imperial Valley Home School Academy, won the regional bee. Due to COVID, the 12-year-old spelled from her Brawley home over video conferencing, narrowly missing the Scripps National Spelling Bee quarterfinals.

This year, Daniel said he is excited to represent the Imperial Valley in the National Spelling Bee and is grateful for the opportunity to do so. After a short rest, he said he plans to begin studying, “posthaste.”

The Scripps National Spelling Bee will air live on ION, starting with the semifinals on June 1 and the finals on June 2. The host will be actor and literacy advocate LeVar Burton.


Calexico Chronicle


EL CENTRO — Nervous facial expressions, slight stumbling over chairs, and confident fist pumps marked the 17 Annual Imperial County Spelling Bee Thursday, March 24, at Jimmie Cannon Theater at Southwest High School.

Crowds of families sprinkled about the theater applauded their respective students, as the top two spellers from each of the 19 schools in Imperial County which held their own spelling bees competed in an on-stage crowd of 36 competitors, said Curriculum and Academic Events Coordinator, Michael Garcia.

Though the crowd of student participants was just over half the size of pre-COVID spelling bees, the smatters of applause from the crowd in support of students who were eliminated by misspellings could be heard throughout the theater, with a swell of cheers as Frank Wright M. Middle School 8th grader Daniel Lemus, correctly spelled “posthaste” for the win.

“In addition to what the Spelling Bee offers as an academic enrichment opportunity, it just allowed our community to come together for a night when we hadn’t been able to in a long time,” Garcia said.

“It's just nice to see smiling student faces up here socializing outside of school, up on stage talking, chatting,” he said. “It's just nice to see us come together as a community.”

“Everybody was happy,” said County Superintendent of Schools and the ICOE Foundation for Education Board President, Dr. J. Todd Finnell.

“The students that you saw tonight obviously have an interest in reading, spelling, and learning different languages when they get into the origins of different words,” Dr. Finnell said.

“The Spelling Bee is one of our academic events that we have throughout the year, and I always tell people that it’s so important to support our students in their different interests and different passions,” he said.

Even though it was nerve-racking for students, from last minute fill-ins to winners alike, those that participated said they had fun in the regional Bee.

“It was scary,” said Cross Elementary School 5th grader Michael Calderon.

“I was in the front, so I was like the third person to go up,” the fill-in for an ill second place Cross winner said. “Then they said that really long word, but I didn't know how to pronounce it.”

“I was thinking about everybody else's words, how they were spelling them, and what kinds of words I would get once it was my turn,” Imperial County Spelling Bee Champion, Daniel Lemus, said after the event. “I really enjoyed seeing everyone else spelling and kind of almost their thought process when they were up there trying to spell it.”

In winning at the county level, Lemus won a 1-year subscription to the online dictionary Merriam-Webster Unabridged, a 1-year membership to (Encyclopedia) Britannica Online Premium, the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award Certificate for a 2022 US Mint Proof Set, county participation certificate and medal, and the first-place trophy for Imperial County spellers.

Dr. Finnell said the ICOE Foundation for Education will send Lemus and one parent to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. in late May.

Lemus said “reading lots of books over time” in addition to the given words list is how he prepared for the regional competition. He also said he enjoys reading lots of American and Japanese comic books in addition to novels. In his spare time, Lemus enjoys playing guitar, singing, listening to different genres of music, and playing videos games.

Lemus said “it feels really good” to become a Spelling Bee champion, and he is very excited for the opportunity to be representing Imperial County at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in the nation’s capital.

“I've never been to D.C. before so it's definitely a new experience for me,” Lemus said. “I’ll probably take more time to study and review the words that might come up.”

“I'm very excited to show the nation that we are here, we are Imperial County, and we are able to represent our community in the national competition,” he said.

“Thank you to everyone for this opportunity,” the 8th grader said. “I will try my best to represent Imperial County well at nationals.”

The Scripps National Spelling Bee will take place at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center during the week of Memorial Day 2022, according to the website, with the semifinals and finals being televised on June 1 and 2. The televised portion will be hosted by actor LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow and Roots fame.

Dr. Finnell and Garcia said the local Foundation for Education is currently accepting donations to help send Lemus’s father and another family member to Washington D.C. with him in addition to his mother.

Donations to “Help Sponsor our Spelling Bee Champion!” can be made online by visiting the Foundation for Education's 2022 Spelling Bee Fundraiser.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals will air live on ION and Bounce TV on June 2.


Desert Review


El CENTRO – Daniel Lemus, an eighth-grader at Frank Wright Middle School in Imperial, emerged from a field of 37 competitors Thursday evening as Imperial County’s 2022 spelling champion.

The 17th annual Imperial County Office of Education Spelling Bee was held at Southwest High School’s Jimmie Cannon Theater.

“I was nervous, but excited,” said Lemus. “I entered knowing this was going to be a fun experience. I noticed others were nervous, too, so we were all nervous together.”

Student participation was open to students younger than 16 in grades 8 or below. Students in Thursday’s competition were either the winner or runner up in their own schools’ spelling bees.

This year’s county spelling bee returned to an in-person format for the first time since 2019, although the event was also available to view YouTube.

Lemus said he “consumed a lot of media” in preparation for this year’s spelling bee. He said he also got a lot of help from his sister.

“They gave me a list of words that could be used in the competition,” he said. “I studied those words in the spelling bee format. She would say the word, I would say it back, and spell it here. Then we would review the word.”

Although Lemus’ final word, posthaste, wasn’t a particularly tricky one compared to some that turn up at these competitions, Lemus admitted the weight of the moment added to the degree of difficulty.

“With all the nervousness, I had to think a little bit about the word,” he said, “and I took some time to make sure I knew what the word was, and could spell it correctly.”

Cheers erupted in the auditorium after Lemus got through it and was declared the winner.

“I would like to thank all of those who came out to support me, to my teachers, friends, and family,” he said.

It was a very grateful experience, and I now get to represent the Imperial Valley at a national level.”

This year’s prizes included a one-year subscription to Merriam-Webster Unabridged, a one-year membership to Britannica Online Premium, The Samuel Louis Sugarman Award, a 2021 U.S. Mint Proof Set, a spelling bee trophy and a trip to Washington, D.C., with one parent to compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.

This was Lemus’ final county spelling bee. His advice for future competitors: “Prepare, but do not wear yourself out. Have fun with the completion. Overall it should be a fun completion, and regardless of the outcome there is always an opportunity to try again later.”


Imperial Valley Press

Spelling Bee Photo Archive can be found HERE.

Added on Tuesday, March 29, 2022 - 16:07