In the end, “reboise” – a rare word for reforesting – tripped up Audrey Wood.
Up until then – for three-and-a-half hours in the longest Arizona State Spelling Bee on record in terms of time and rounds – the seventh grader from St. John Bosco Catholic School in Ahwatukee hung in there by correctly spelling “jaguar,” “gulden,” “pentathlon,” “cravat,” “blasé,” “gymkhana” and “philhellenism.”
Audrey made it to the 13th round of the bee on Saturday, technically tying with 13 other youngsters for sixth place. And despite her loss, she considered it “an amazing and very positive experience.”
The 13-year-old daughter of Dustin and Lesley Wood nevertheless earned some distinctions on her way to the state championship, which was won by Queen Creek eighth grader.
The Arizona State Spelling Bee, which marked its 19th year, is hosted by the Arizona Educational Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Scottsdale.
She has represented St. John Bosco at the Phoenix Diocesan spelling bee four years in a row, starting in the fourth grade. She won the school bee three times, but ended up representing it a fourth because the first-place winner had moved out of state.
This year she won the regional spelling bee, defeating all other contenders from schools in Mesa, Tempe and Ahwatukee and winning her one of the 27 coveted spots in the state bee.
Audrey, whose favorite subject is creative writing, said, “I do study spelling quite a bit. During spelling bee season, I study every night, even if it’s just for a few minutes.”
But she’s also busy with a lot of other things outside the classroom – including acting, Irish dancing, violin, guitar, basketball and filmmaking.
She said her secret to being a good speller is simple.
“Anytime I hear a word that I don’t know, I look it up and write it down,” Audrey explained. “I also have a book of difficult-to-spell words with thousands of words that my grandmother gave to me, so I have my parents ask me random words out of that book.”
Her formula works.
Although St. John Bosco doesn’t have a separate line on her report card for spelling, she said, “I’ve always done really well.”
“I think I’ve only missed about five words ever, and that was back in the first, second and third grades.”
Audrey also reads a lot, but said, “I always have something that I’m reading, but I don’t think I read as much as other kids who are into reading do.
“I’m more into writing. I really love creative writing and using big words that I’ve used from my spelling studies.”
She likes dystopian young-adult fiction – the “Hunger Games” trilogy as well as the “Divergent” and “Maze Runner” series – and is currently reading the Harry Potter books now.
As for the spelling bees, Audrey isn’t turning her back on them any time soon.
Besides the fact they have “made me really good at spelling,” they also “made me much more at ease in thinking on my feet and being in front of a crowd.
“I really enjoy spelling in front of a crowd.”
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