Sixth-grade students make spelling bee despite storm |

Sixth-grade students make spelling bee despite storm

by Leslie Pearson
Special to The R-C
Eleven-year-old Francesca Melander spells during the Douglas County school district-wide spelling bee on Thursday at Piñon Hills Elementary School.
Shannon Litz | The Record-Courier

Can you spell “snow?”

Students from Douglas County’s elementary schools can, and they braved Thursday’s blizzard to attend the spelling bee held at Piñon Hills Elementary School. The event started slightly after 10 a.m. to accommodate students running late because of slick roads.

Twenty-one contestants from Jacks Valley, Meneley, Gardnerville, Minden, Scarselli, Zephyr Cove, and Piñon Hills elementary schools battled for first place and their chance to attend the state spelling bee held in Las Vegas in March.

Three contestants made it to round eight which was won by Francesca Melander, 11, of Scarselli Elementary School. The winning word was “ambiguity.” Her championship word was “isobar” which confirmed her as the spelling bee’s first place winner.

“It felt amazing,” Francesca said. “I didn’t think I was going to make it.”

This is the second year in a row that a Scarselli Elementary School sixth grader has won the district spelling bee and advanced to the state competition.

“We’re on a roll,” said Brandon Swain, Scarselli Elementary School principal.

The last two contenders both misspelled words in round eight and had to fight for runner up after Francesca’s win. Devin Schwartz of Jacks Valley Elementary School and Trinity McGowan of Minden Elementary School took turns correctly spelling “diagnosis,” “stipple,” “trauma,” “vibrato,” “angelic” and “character.” McGowan lost with “alfalfa” and Schwartz won with the runner-up championship word “karate.”

Francesca said her parents and reading helped her become a good speller.

“I cannot emphasize enough how much (reading) helped me,” she said. “I read at recess.”

All the students were given guides with 4,000 possible spelling bee words, Francesca said.

“My parents would just flip through the pages and pick a word for me to spell,” she said. “If I got it wrong, I’d repeat it and spell it again. But if I got it right, I got it right.”

What is Francesca’s strategy for the state competition in Las Vegas?

“I’ll probably study a lot harder,” she said. “I sort of slacked this time.”