It was the adept spellings of “levigate” and “tyranny” that won Huntington Middle School’s first spelling bee last week.
Now, victor Audrey Jung will represent the school among the county’s 6th-graders at the Los Angeles County Spelling Bee on March 29. Jung emerged as the winner from around 50 participants at the Feb. 7 contest.
Jung admitted afterward to having reviewed her spelling only the prior weekend, but that she had effectively prepared herself for years. More specifically, since she became literate.
“Mostly, you have to read a lot of different kinds of literature,” she said.
Several rounds tested HMS’ participants, with Principal and “Spellmaster General” Jason Kurtenbach issuing the words and granting definitions and use in a sentence when requested. Tricky words such as “zucchini,” “raspberry” and “phobia” were in the first round and the difficulty curve was impressive for the last rounds, including the likes of “pasteurize,” “cocoon” and “receive.”
Midway through, the word “spaghetti” memorably earned wide eyes and dropped jaws from participating students. During the championship round, the words “nasturtium” and “maunder” stumped both finalists.
“It went from zero, to five, to, like, 10,” said second-place finisher Kyle Dobson, when asked about the difficulty curve.
HMS English and social studies teachers Sheila Doan and Stephanie Moffat took charge of organizing the spelling bee and also provided students with a variety of studying tools and held practice bees in class.
“We didn’t want them to feel pressured, so we kept it fun and friendly for them,” Moffat explained.
The 50-plus participants make up nearly a quarter of the 220 students in 6th grade at HMS, an impressive mark for the first of what hopefully will be an annual event at the middle school.
“That’s an amazing response,” Doan said. “We were afraid no one would show up.”
In fact, the stage was full, and plenty of parents, family and friends came to enjoy the contest. The participating students were notably respectful and encouraging of each other, despite the competitive nature, and patted those just eliminated on the back as they left the stage.
“They’re great kids, absolutely,” Moffat said.
Jung, Dobson and third-place finisher Celine Chien each received certificates and HMS paraphernalia, and Jung will be commemorated on a plaque in the HMS central office.