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Educational Services Division

Spellmaster Presides for 30th Year over Hotly Contested Spelling Bee

Spelling Bee Elementary Winners 2017

Elementary winners, left to right: Judah Kim, 1st Place Winner; Tristan Torres, 2nd Place Winner; Zane Escoto, 3rd Place Winner

Over one hundred students in grades 4-9 gathered at the UCSC campus for the annual county-wide spelling bee.

This year's event marked thirty years with Mardi Browning serving as spellmaster to the elementary division. Mardi took over the event in 1987 from Tom Honing, former editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel when he was unable to participate and, in her words "loved it so much I never gave it back." Back in those days, the bee was an oral event which each student taking their turn on the stage to spell one word. At least one time, this led to a student collapsing from fatigue, according to Mardi's memories. The county bee now is a written event. All students are given a list of approximately seventy words to spell and the winner is the one who spells the highest number of these correctly.

Sofia Sorenson and Mardi Browning

Sofia Sorenson presents Board Recognition Award to Mardi Browning

Mardi loves the spelling bee because she loves words. She "loves saying words, loves using words, loves thinking about the origins of words." The community of Santa Cruz County is grateful that Mardi has been willing to devote so many years to serving as spellmaster, which entails both presiding over the event and also preparing the word list every year. Mardi says that she is amazed by the spelling talents of the elementary division students (grades 4-6) and always needs to include a few words from the upper division sample word lists to make sure there are enough challenging words. One word that she remembers stumping everyone is "antimacassar", which readers of Victorian novels will remember is "a piece of cloth put over the back of a chair to protect it from grease and dirt or as an ornament."

Her faith in the abilities of the Elementary Division was rewarded this year, as the first place winner, Judah Kim, a fifth grader at Ocean Grove Charter School had a perfect paper. Judah spelled words such as "pharmaceutical" and "apocryphal" correctly. There was an initial tie for second place, with three students having only one incorrectly spelled word out of 74. This necessitated a spell off. Tristan Torres, a sixth grader at Rio del Mar Elementary, placed second by correctly spelling "ambiance." Second place secured, the spell off to decide third place continued between Zane Escoto, a sixth grader at Ocean Grove, who placed third last year, and Ella Webb, a fourth grader at Vine Hill Elementary School. By correctly spelling "inconspicuous", Zane took home the third place trophy.

Rina Rossi

Rina Rossi
1st Place Junior Winner

Andrew Crabtree

Andrew Crabtree
2nd Place Junior Winner

Gunnika Kapoor

Gunnika Kapoor
3rd Place Junior Winner

The Junior Division was also closely contested. Rina Rossi, a ninth grader at Pacific Collegiate School who last year placed third, this year took home the first place trophy and will represent Santa Cruz County at the state-level. Rina had only one incorrect word in a list of challenges such as "fructiferous" and "caterwaul." In second place was Andrew Crabtree, a seventh grader from Ocean Grove Charter School, with only two errors. There was an initial tie for third place, with only three errors. J.J. Kim-Eubio, a seventh grader at Alianza Charter School and last year's second-place winner of the Elementary Division, and Gunnika Kapoor, a seventh grader at Ocean Grove Charter School, battled it out in a spell-off. Gunnika eventually captured third place by correctly spelling "pneumococcal."

The top two spellers from each division advance to the state-wide completion.

2017 Santa Cruz County Spelling Bee Winners

Ocean Grove Charter Student Judah Kim Aces Spelling Bee, published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on February 4, 2017.

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