Eighth-grader Katie Peterson of Palm Desert Charter Middle School emerged from nearly three hours of relentless competition Wednesday (March 20, 2013) as the winner of the 36th annual Riverside County Spelling Bee.
A poised competitor, she permitted herself a small, confident smile before correctly spelling the word “tremulous” to cinch the victory. Her win, representing Desert Sands USD, came in the competition’s 20th round.
Katie has won her district Bee three times, but this was her first countywide victory. Afterwards she acknowledged the contest was grueling. “Oh, it was difficult. A lot of the words the other contestants got were really confusing. They had odd spellings. I felt lucky,” she said.
Among the words that challenged participants along the way Wednesday: kudzu, colloquial, and omnivorous. In later rounds, participants drew tougher words such as gnathonic, mnemonic, and paradigm.
Katie’s mother, Vini Peterson, said the family came to the United States from Indonesia a dozen years ago. Neither mother nor daughter knew any English, she said, but together they immersed themselves in the new language. The pair credited popular TV shows, including Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street (and Elmo in particular) with helping them both to a good start with English. Now, Katie said she is a devoted reader, particularly in summertime, when she may read three or four books a week.
This year’s Riverside County Bee began with 26 participants. (A 27th entry, Van Avery Prep School of Temecula was knocked entirely out of the Bee by the illness of both representatives.) In all, it took 22 rounds to settle the questions of who will represent Riverside County at both the National and California State Bees.
As first place finisher, Katie Peterson will represent the county at the National Spelling Bee. That will take place May 26 through June 1 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Maryland. That trip is underwritten by the Riverside Press-Enterprise, co-sponsor of the Riverside County Bee.
The Riverside County Office of Education, which coordinates and produces the county Bee each year, will pay for the county’s two top elementary school finishers to compete at the California State Elementary Spelling Bee. They were Ryan Bascos, a fourth-grader from Stokoe Elementary School (Alvord USD), and Shakson Isaac, a sixth-grader at the San Jacinto Leadership Academy (San Jacinto USD). The State Bee will be held April 20 at the San Joaquin Office of Education.