Kingsbury student draws on graffiti to win spelling bee

Graffiti was the word that made Sabrina Swoger a winner at the sixth-grade spelling bee at Piñon Hills Elementary School Wednesday and made her one of Douglas County's representatives to the state spelling bee in Las Vegas next month.

It took four rounds to get down to the final two spellers. The previous students had fallen by the wayside by misspelling what probably are traditional spelling bee stumpers such as abdomen, mezzanine, unnatural and mortician.

Sabrina, a Kingsbury Middle School student, and second-place speller Brianna Randall of Piñon Hills moved on to the fifth round after successfully spelling mistletoe and oblique, respectively. Brianna misspelled armadillo, but according to the rules, Sabrina had to spell that word and the next word, graffiti, correctly to win the contest.

Pau-Wa-Lu eighth-grader Bonnie Slocum, who placed fifth in last year's state championship, won the eighth-grade bee, and Carson Valley Middle School seventh-grader Daniel Ruben won his grade.

All three are eligible to compete in the state competition. Winners there will go to Washington, D.C., to compete in the 79th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee May 31-June 1.

The 22 students in the sixth-grade competition were the top three spellers from each of Douglas County School District's sixth-grade classes plus Laura Kruse, a home-schooled student.

Sue Kruse said this was her daughter's first spelling bee.

"We heard about the spelling bee just a couple weeks ago when we got a letter from the school district," Kruse said. "I bought her the book, '20 Days to Better Spelling' and she practiced the words used in her text book glossaries. Her brothers helped by getting out the dictionary. I told her to have fun and see what happens."

Second-place speller, Brianna Randall, 12, said she was nervous about standing up in front of everyone to participate in the spelling bee.

"I read a lot," said Randall about her aptitude for spelling.

Mike Randall attributed his daughter's success to not watching TV.

"She's a smart little girl," he said. "She's outdone her brother. Two years ago her brother was in a spelling bee but Brianna got further than him."

Sabrina's English teacher and spelling coach for the Kingsbury students, Cathy Ricioli, said her students practiced at lunch.

"Lunch time is the best time to coach the kids," Ricioli said. "They have such busy schedules. To prepare for the competition, every extra credit assignment used words from the bee list. All the students were devoted to studying. I'll continue to help Sabrina but she has great support from home."

Top speller Sabrina Swoger, 11, said practicing with her friends during school lunch helped improve her spelling skills.

"We practiced Monday through Thursday and I practiced at home," said Swoger. "My friend Darby Reeder quizzed me a lot."

Swoger said she didn't expect to come in first in the spelling bee.

"But I knew she was going to win," said Swoger's Kingsbury teammate, Caranina Palomino.

Participants in sixth grade spelling bee:

Meneley Elementary School:

Tanner DeGiovanni

Summer Miller

Shannon Hubbard

Minden Elementary School:

Cameron Morefield

Austin Park

Conner Hughes

Scarselli Elementary School:

Cameron Frogget

Daniel Armbrust

Kayla Ackerman

Kingsbury Middle School:

Caranina Palomino

Samantha Rupp

Sabrina Swoger, first place

Gardnerville Elementary School:

Walker Spurgeon

Megan Robinson

Katie Ellison

Piñon Hills Elementary School:

Brianna Randall, second place

Christina Beaty

Matt Jilk

Home school:

Laura Kruse


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