Spellbound achievers push to bee their best

Hilda Lazama and Millie Lazama, 11, from Maze Middle School, competing in the local spelling bee.

Students from San Benito County gathered at Ladd Lane Elementary School on Tuesday to take part in the preliminary competition of the 17th annual San Benito County Spelling Bee. The grade school competition featured fourth, fifth and sixth graders.
On Wednesday, seventh and eighth graders took their preliminary test in the Junior High competition, which was also held at Ladd Lane. The preliminary competition consists of a 50-word written test, with the top 25 from both divisions advancing to the finals on March 1 (fourth through sixth graders) and March 2 (seventh and eighth graders).
From there, the top two finalists from each group advance to the state competition. Parents of the approximately 68 grade school students who took part in Tuesday’s event watched in eager anticipation from the bleachers. Siblings Colton Borland, a fourth grader at Jefferson Elementary School, and Kailey Borland, a sixth grader at Jefferson, loved the challenge of the spelling bee.
The Borlands are residents of Paicines and active in the ranching lifestyle—9-year-old Colton is raising a pig and 11-year-old Kailey has already raised three pigs and two sheep. The two were plenty excited after finishing the test.
“It would mean a lot (to make it to the finals),” Colton said. “Even if I don’t, I’ll try again next year.”
Said Kailey: “I would’ve done this before, but I only learned about it this year. It was a good challenge.”
Abigail Alford, a 9-year-old fourth grader at Southside School, had been looking forward to the event since early January. Alford, who is active in basketball, gymnastics and Girl Scouts, said the preliminary round of the spelling bee offered something unique.
“I think it’s more exciting than sports because it’s hard and challenging in a different way,” she said. “The (national) finalists get to go to Washington D.C., and it’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit because they have really cool museums.”
James Breen, a 10-year-old fifth grader at Sacred Heart Elementary School, said he was at the preliminary competition to get extra credit for school. Marea Ito, who is also a 10-year-old fifth grader at Sacred Heart, said she was taking the test for extra credit as well.
However, when asked about her two older siblings, both of whom took part in the spelling bee, Ito’s personality came out.
“That would be really cool if I could get farther than them,” she said. “I would totally rub it in their faces.”
San Benito County Spelling Bee Coordinator Kim O’Connor expressed pride in an event that features a bonus gift for the winners this year. The Rotary Club of Hollister Is offering a free Kindle Fire to the winner in each division.

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