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Jun 11, 2008

Guinea Grass student is nation’s top speller

Story PictureIt’s well into its second decade and by all accounts the words are not getting any easier. That’s the report from Orange Walk where News Five’s Marion Ali followed the stiff competition in this year’s National Spelling Bee.

Marion Ali
With the proper spelling of the word forsythia, twelve year old Zaneen Pott of Guinea Grass Roman Catholic Primary School in Orange Walk captured the 2008 Coca Cola National Spelling Bee championship. Pott told News Five that the several months of sacrifice and hard work finally paid off.

Zaneen Pott, Winner, Coca Cola National Spelling Bee
“I studied hard but it was not too bad. It was exciting for me and I feel happy right now.”

Marion Ali
“You won with the word …”

Zaneen Pott

Marion Ali
“Now was that a guess for you or you knew how to spell the word?”

Zaneen Pott
“I knew how to spell the word. The principal had gave me that word from a long time. It didn’t went from my mind so when I heard the word I got surprised.”

Pott was tied for first with twelve year old Ianney Pelayo of Wesley Upper from Belize City for first. But while Pelayo spelled her word, “cornucopia”, correctly on her paper, the audio spelling was declared incorrect. When she raised her concern, judges checked the tape but their decision remained firm.

David Craig, Organiser, Coca Cola National Spelling Bee
“What was interesting about that; we give them a little piece of paper to write down their spellings on the paper and when I went up on the stage the child had the word spelled right on the paper. So what we did was, we chose to reviewed the audio tape but we found that even though she had it right on the paper, she did not spell it right on the audio which is what counts. The pronouncer pronounced it properly—she was magnificent today—so the child did not get that word but she ended up coming in third and getting a one year scholarship so I was happy about that. She is a very good speller.”

While the final decision is sometimes tough on a speller, it does teach some positive lessons in life.

David Craig
“It’s so sad. I must say to see them cry up there, it just shows you the pressure that they’re under and it makes us feel a little bad because we creating a competition where people get sad in the end. But it’s all about competition, it’s about building character and I believe that stronger … this has been good all around for the kids.”

Pelayo’s automatic elimination from first place then placed her in the competition for second with eleven year old Ian Correa of Saint Francis Xavier of Corozal. But an already emotional Pelayo also faltered on that chance when she incorrectly spelled the word plebiscite. Correa went on to capture second when he nailed the word oropendola.

Marion Ali
“When you heard the word what went through your mind?”

Ian Correa, Second place, Coca Cola National Spelling Bee
“That I had to try and put the application of the rules and I thought this could be relatively easy or hard depends on how you put it.”

Marion Ali
“And then you nailed it.”

Ian Correa
“Yup. I never thought it would be that. It feels good to know new words. To increases your vocabulary.”

Ianney Pelayo then settled for third when she successfully spelled hemorrhoids. Today was an experience she says she will never forget.

Ianney Pelayo, Third place, Coca Cola Spelling Bee
“I feel good. I mi really want come een first but third place still dah wah winner. Because ah dis spelling bee I think I wah get fi accomplish wah whole lot more now because ah di spelling. Ih dah mi wah good experience.”

And good experiences are what the spelling bee is all about.

Silvana Woods, Publicity Dir., Coca Cola Spelling Bee
“You may have seen our vote of thanks if you were here at that point, given by our 2005 winner, who is now a first form student at Muffles College because he took part when he was in standard four. The backdrop, the Bowen and Bowen backdrop is now made by an employee who of theirs who was a past spelling bee winner who went into graphic arts and she’s moved right on. We have people, I can’t remember their names.”

Marion Ali
“Kimberly Haughton.”

Silvanna Woods
“Kimberly Haughton and I think one year we identified five students who either were CXC national winners or were writing in the newspapers. Yes our winners do tend to be students who are well driven and who go on and excel at just about everything they do.”

Craig says while the spelling bee gained momentum in the 90’s the event dates back much further than most people can remember.

David Craig
“The Ministry of Education has been running the Spelling Bee from long before that. We have heard reports of older people telling us when they were young there were spelling bees, the Ministry of Education were having spelling bees. Fourteen years ago we came on and I can remember we were creating backdrops out of sticky materials and using tape and we didn’t know what we were doing. But working along with the Ministry of Education and having meetings every year, we looked at ways to better it and improved technology. We just kept improving it every single year and that continues to this year. There’s not a year that goes by without the changes in rules and changes in technology, bringing it to perfection. We are challenging—of course, back then the words were so much easier. There are four thousand words added to the English dictionary every year and we look into those words. Words from the technology, words from the bioscience and we keep adding them. So it’s been a wonderful ride.”

But while it has been a good investment for the company, they also want to take the event to the next level.

David Craig
“Our personal wish and goal is that we could take a prodigy from Belize, find somebody who is a real prodigy, get a newspaper in Belize, challenge a newspaper in Belize to sponsor it and then take that child to National Scripts Howard Spelling Bee that takes place in Washington every year. That’s on ABC and on ESPN.”

Marion Ali
“That’s international.”

David Craig
“That’s big, I mean the listenership, the viewership on that is just incredible. It rivals some of the bigger sports events in the world and we believe that we’re gonna find a prodigy. We haven’t quite seen one yet but we believe that one will emerge.”

Reporting for News Five, Marion Ali.

For her first place finish, Zaneen Pott won herself a laptop computer and a desktop computer for her school. She also received a four year high school scholarship from the Ministry of Education and Almanacs from Bowen and Bowen. Ian Correa collected a lap top computer for himself, a two year book scholarship and Almanacs, and for her effort, Ianney Pelayo took home a fifteen hundred dollar book grant and Almanacs.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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