As parent Armando Gonzalez listened to the spelling word issued to his 11-year-old daughter Evie at the Feb. 6 championship round of the 2019 San Benito County Office of Education Spelling Bee, he spelled it out in his head.
Listening to Evie spell the same word aloud but differently, he thought she had misspelled the word and was going to be eliminated from the elementary school division.
“Her second word, I was spelling it in my head with her and I’m like ‘Oh, she missed it. She’s out,’” said Armando, who was never more happy to be wrong. “Then, I heard ‘Ding. Ding.’ She was right and I was like, ‘I guess I’m out.’”
Evie Gonzalez, a sixth grader at Hollister Prep School, remained in the competition and outlasted 19 other finalists to be crowned the 2019 county spelling bee champion at Ladd Lane Elementary School.
Her winning word was ‘disassemble.’
“Number one, I was excited and I was very happy. I had a lot of fun because it was a good competition,” said Evie Gonzalez, who also won an iPad and $250 in travel expenses to the state-level competition. “When I did the first one, I was kind of nervous. …(But) once I started spelling more words, it was good because I knew what I was doing.”
When the elementary field of 20 finalists was whittled down to two, it was Gonzalez up against Spring Grove Elementary School fourth grader Miranda Navarro. After Navarro mis-spelled a word, “I just started thinking, ‘This is my chance. I’ve really got to think this one through but not overthink it,” Evie said.
Gonzalez had to not only spell the word Navarro mis-spelled but also spell a second word correctly to win the championship.
“It was really fun and kind of interesting to compete (in a spelling bee) and really test your knowledge,” said Evie, who never seizes to amaze her parents.
“I’ve never felt this nervous for her in anything,” Armando added. “We were blown away. She always exceeds our expectations when it comes to academics.”
Also exceeding expectations was Miranda Navarro, one of the youngest competitors at the bee who finished in second place to earn the $250 expenses-paid trip to the 2019 State Bee preliminary rounds in San Joaquin County.
“I felt very proud finishing second. I came in ready to do this. I felt confident. Now I am looking forward to going to the (state bee),” Miranda said. “I wanted to compete in it because I wanted to try something new because I’m a good speller.”
When the 10-year-old received a flier in school about the spelling bee, she brought it home and told her parents that she wanted to compete in it.
“We’re very proud of her. She’s a very smart girl. It was her own initiative to participate in spelling bee,” Miranda’s mother Courtney Navarro said. “It was all her. That makes me so proud that she’s the one that wanted to do it.”
Rounding out the top four in the elementary division were third-place finisher Brooklynn Goldstone, a sixth grader from Accelerated Achievement Academy, and fourth-place finisher Valeria Esqueda, a sixth grader from Spring Grove School.
In the Feb. 8 junior high division finals, also held at Ladd Lane Elementary School, Rasmeet Brar, a seventh grader from Accelerated Achievement Academy, won the title, iPad (courtesy of Rotary Club of Hollister) and $250 expenses-paid ticket to the state bee in Marin. He will be joined by runner-up Donnobhain Haertel, an eighth grader from Spring Grove School.
Finishing in third place in the junior high division was Deepinder Mann, a seventh grader from Rancho San Justo, followed by Stephanie Miramontes, a seventh grader from Jefferson, taking fourth place.
Judges for this year’s Bee included Sheriff Darren Thompson, Supervisor Jim Gillio, Supervisor Mark Medina, County Superintendent Krystal Lomanto and SBCOE Director of Special Education Bill Sachau.
The annual bee, which drew about 160 participants (80 each day) for the Jan. 23-24 preliminary rounds, is open to all county students whether attending public or private schools and broken into two grade-level divisions.
“The words are purely selected at random,” said Bee organizer Colleen Myers, the county office’s Coordinator of Instructional Support.
For the first time in the bee, Myers implemented a computer program (with help from the Hollister School District IT Dept.) in the preliminary rounds to allow students to type in their answers to the 20 spelling words using a Chromebook. They could also opt to write in their answers with a pencil instead.
“It was really great. I gave them the option to do either or both,” Myers said. “I would say two-thirds of the kids did it all online. A small portion did both where they wrote and typed them in. An even smaller portion just wrote their answers.”
Unlike the prelims, the championship rounds used the traditional format with students standing at a podium in front of audience members and judges while spelling out the word given to each contestant. Students were allowed to ask questions about their word prior to spelling it.
2019 San Benito County Spelling Bee
(Top Two Winners Go On To State)
Elementary (grades 4-6) winners
1st place: Evie Gonzalez, a 6th grader from Hollister Prep School
2nd place: Miranda Navarro, a 4th grader from Spring Grove School
3rd place: Brooklynn Goldstone, a 6th grader from Accelerated Achievement Academy
4th place: Valeria Esqueda, a 6th grader from Spring Grove School
Junior High (grades 7-8) winners
1st place: Rasmeet Brar, a 7th grader from Accelerated Achievement Academy
2nd place: Donnobhain Haertel, an 8th grader from Spring Grove School
3rd place: Deepinder Mann, a 7th grader from Rancho San Justo
4th place: Stephanie Miramontes, a 7th grader from Jefferson
Top 20 elementary finalists: Evie Gonzalez, Baron Recht, Brooklynn Goldstone, Emilia Rovella, Annie Cullumber, Quinton Zanger, Tyler Crosby, Valeria Esqueda, Alexander Brister, Maximus Madrigal, Aryanna McClelland, Daniela Orsetti, Morgan Ruiz, Isabella Nicholson, Madeline Rosa, Kathy Miramontes, Levi Tran, Miranda Navarro, Sophia Madrigal, Adeline Mellow, Anthony Medrano
Top 20 Junior High finalists: Rasmeet Brar, Ava Thatcher, Max Westphal, Cassie Rayas, Deepinder Mann, Donnobhain Haertel, Emmia Rivera, Aarush Jagtap, Madison Statua, Luis Silva, Isabela Fernandez, Julian Martinez, Ignacio Velazquez, Stephanie Miramontes, Fabiola Gonzalez, Hailey Garcia, Rosa Miramontes, Brandon Gatson, Dafny Senties, Rasmeet Brar, Ava Thatcher