Jace McNabb tops at Belen Bee

........................................................................................................................................................................................

A crowd of teachers, students and parents sat entranced in Belen High School auditorium Friday as the final two students battled for the top spot at the 2013 Belen Spelling Bee.

After 14 championship rounds, returning champ Gil Sanchez fifth-grader Jace McNabb spelled the winning word, remora, after La Merced fifth-grader Josiah Jaramillo misspelled the word rebarbative.

Barron Jones-News-Bulletin photo: The top three spellers at the Belen Schools Spelling Bee are, from left, second-place winner Josiah Jaramillo, Jace McNabb, first place, and Tommierae McKnight, third place.

Jaramillo’s second-place ranking is a big improvement over last year’s finish, when he placed 17th overall.

McNabb said it felt great to win but he did have some concerns.

“The last two years, everybody has been great spellers,” McNabb said thoughtfully. “I’m just thankful to have won.”

More than 50 fourth- through eighth-graders from nine Belen area schools, including St. Mary’s Catholic School, participated in the contest.

All nine schools hosted a spelling bee and the top six students earned spots in the district-wide bee.

Joining McNabb and Jaramillo in the winner’s circle was third-place finisher St. Mary’s seventh-grader Tommierae McKnight.

Josiah Jaramillo’s father, David Jaramillo, said his son’s mother,April, has been working really hard to help prepare Josiah for the spelling bee ever since last year’s competition.

“It meant a lot to him [Josiah],” Jaramillo said proudly. “He and his mom have been studying his heart out … ever since he finished 17th in last year’s spelling bee.”

While both parents would’ve been happy with a top 10 finish, April said she is pleased with the outcome.

“I feel so excited that words can’t even explain,” April Jaramillo said. “We studied hard. We picked 20 words a night and looked them up in the dictionary so I could learn how to pronounce them.”

After five rounds of action, judges disqualified 49 students leaving just five students remaining going into the sixth round. But by the end of the ninth round, that number would be reduced to the final two.

Out of the 23 rounds it took to decide the winner, the third round was the most difficult. That round saw 14 students disqualified.

La Merced fifth-grader Tyler Swent, who was eliminated after the first round, said he is looking forward to returning next year, but for now he was happy to stick around and support his cousin, Josiah Jaramillo.

BCS Director of Instruction and Curriculum Geneva Nixon said the spelling bee helps participants increase reading proficiency and accumulate new words.

“A good vocabulary goes a long way,” Nixon said. “Just watching the kids use a skill they learned is so great.”

McNabb said to prepare for the upcoming Valencia County Spelling Bee he plans on studying more than 1 1/2 hours every night.

Rounding out the top 10 are Cadence Martinez, of Dennis Chavez Elementary; Derik Chavez, of La Promesa Elementary; John Trujillo, of Rio Grande Elementary; Nicolas Vallejos, of Belen Middle School; Teyah Shaw, of Dennis Chavez Elementary; William Ulbricht, of Belen Family School; and Joshua Ward, of Central Elementary.

All of the contest’s top 10 finishers will go on to compete in the Valencia County Spelling Bee on Jan. 15. The top three in that contest will go on to compete in the New Mexico Spelling Bee March 22, 2014.