Sage Sawhney is a seventh grader at the school in the Caesar Rodney District
The last time Anna Nguyen made it to the Delaware State Spelling Bee, she got eliminated on her second word.
So to prepare this year, she studied the Merriam-Webster dictionary and spelling bee lists for an hour every day, and it paid off on Saturday.
“Age and experience led me to my victory,” the new state spelling bee champion said in the St. Mark’s High School theater in Pike Creek March 7.
Nguyen, a Smyrna Middle School eighth grader, advances to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, May 24-29 in Washington, D.C.
Her winning word was “guttural” – meaning produced in the throat, or harsh-sounding.
Nguyen, second-place finisher Sage Sawhney and third-place finisher Anaum Allimulla all won scholarships to St. Mark’s, which were offered for the first time to top spellers this year. All said they weren’t sure yet if they would take them.
Longtime volunteer word pronouncer Dave Skocik called the annual competition “the most intense four hours of my year,” as fourth through eighth graders from more than 70 schools across Delaware took turns spelling words.
By the time contestants were whittled down to the top three, the competition was swift.
Allimulla, an eighth grader at Newark Charter Junior High School, correctly spelled “gesticulate,” then faltered on “conglomerate.”
“For my first time [at the state spelling bee], I think I did pretty well,” she said.
Sawhney, who won third place last year, spelled “homage,” “obelisk,” “chronometer” and “raptatorial” before being eliminated on “niacin.”
A seventh grader at Postlethwait Middle School in Camden, Sawhney hopes to be back next year.
Nguyen successfully spelled “ethanol,” “jettison” “ensemble” and “quintessential” before her winning word.
Later, clutching her trophy, she said the winning moment “felt like I was dreaming.”
She had a message for fans as she heads into preparations for the national spelling bee: “Keep your TVs tuned. You might be seeing my face.”
Reporter Jeanne Kuang works for the News Journal and delawareonline.com, part of the Gannett company which includes the Sun-Times.