LLMS 7th grader wins Spanish Bee

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Sergio Cristobal Morales, a Los Lunas Middle School seventh-grader, won first place at the 2014 Los Lunas district Spanish Spelling Bee.

The winning word was, caricatura, meaning caricature or cartoon figure.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Los Lunas district Spanish Spelling Bee winners are, from left, third place, Nicolas Morales, a Sundance Elementary fourth-grader; first place, Sergio Chris Morales, a Los Lunas Middle School seventh-grader; and second place, Patricia Montes, a Valencia Middle School eighth-grader. First and second place winners will go on to compete at the state level Saturday, April 12, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

There was a small crowd of teachers and parents present for the Spanish Spelling Bee, which was held at the Teacher’s Resource Center.

Last year, Morales placed fifth in state, and went on to place fourth in the National Spanish Spelling Bee.

His little brother, Nicolas Morales, a fourth-grader at Sundance Elementary, ran up after the competition and hugged his big brother with pride, but Nicolas also won. He competed for the first time and won third place at the bee.

“I thought he was going to win first place,” the older brother said with mutual pride.

The brothers have a professional composure and said they don’t have a problem competing against each other.

Nicolas has been studying just like his big brother, he said.

“Our mom tells us a word and we spell it,” Morales said. “I study half an hour a day.”

“I do the same thing as him,” Nicolas added.

Patricia Montes took second place this year. She has made it to the district Spanish Spelling Bee four times. The eighth-grader from Valencia Middle School said she studies by spelling the words out loud to her mother.

“My mom tells me the words, and if I mess up on them I have to repeat it, like 10 times to myself,” Montes said.

This is the first time she will go on to compete at the state level. “I feel great. I am just real happy,” Montes said. “I’m going to make sure I study a lot.”

Montes and Morales will go on to compete at the state level. Only the top two spellers go to state, said Juliette Romero Benavidez, director of compliance and accountability

“Only the first-place winner and one alternate can go to state,” Benavidez said.

All three of the winners speak fluent Spanish as well as English. Success in spelling bees depend on practice, Morales said.

“Speak your language at home, because if you can speak it, you can spell it,” he said.

The contestants have to spell using the Spanish alphabet.

“They have to know the rules of Spanish to be able to know if it needs an accent mark or not,” said Elizabeth Padilla, the bee’s pronouncer.

Morales said he thinks English spelling is harder to learn because of the weird letter combinations (cognates), but Montes said she thinks Spanish is way harder because “there are all those accents and things on letters.”

“They’re both hard. I think spelling is tough,” said Benavidez.

“I’m so proud of all of them because they’re all champions at their own school sites,” she said. “It was amazing to see both middle schools have competitors as well as the elementaries.”

The Spanish Spelling Bee judges were Karina Baker, a Valencia Middle School teacher; Diedra Ann Martinez, the principal of Desert View Elementary; and Elena Trodden, the principal of Ann Parish Elementary.

The state competition is at 8:30 a.m., Saturday, April 12, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, 1701 4th Street SW, in Albuquerque. The National Spanish Spelling Bee will be on Saturday, July 19.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.