Spelling champ goes on to D.C.

By Janet Bresenham

Everyday life in Washington, D.C., usually revolves around the center of American government, political power and the hustle and bustle of bills on Capitol Hill.
But today, young people will show the country how to spell success.
The 76th annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee begins this morning in the Independence Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Washington, where 251 students will try to remember a plethora of words stored in their brains from hours of study.
Among the 125 boys and 126 girls from across the country competing for the chance to outspell the others in the nation’s capital will be Michael Martinez, 13, of Conchas Dam. He won the March 8 Regional Spelling Bee in Clovis, which is sponsored by Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico.
“I feel like if I make it through the first round, I’ll be pretty happy,” said Martinez, who just finished seventh grade at Tucumcari Middle School. “I’ve talked to people who have been in the National Spelling Bee and they said the first round is pretty hard.”
Martinez flew to the East Coast on Saturday and has been dividing his time between studying and sightseeing with his parents, Joe and Rita Martinez, during his first visit to the nation’s capital.
“Really, the only thing you have to study is the dictionary,” he said. “We brought our big one. There is also a group of 250 words they sent us, so I’ve been studying those, too.”
Martinez drew No. 8 in the registration, so he will be among the first 124 students who take the stage for Round One of the national competition, which gets under way from 5:30-7:10 a.m. (MDT) today.
“I think he’s doing pretty good,” Joe Martinez said. “He’s pretty confident and comfortable with himself. He doesn’t get nervous.”
At the regional level in Clovis, Michael Martinez won the chance to compete nationally with the word “diadem,” which means “a crown of jewels, specifically worn as a badge of royalty.”
“It’s hard to know what word to expect,” Joe Martinez said. “You might get a word you’ve never heard of or you might get a word you’ve already studied. It’s a lot of skill and knowledge, but it’s also a little bit of luck as to what word you get.”
Michael Martinez will be competing against students who range in age from 8 to 15.
After the opening round, spellers No. 125 to 251 will take their seats on stage at 7:15 a.m. (MDT) and continue with their portion of Round One until 9:15 a.m. (MDT).
The morning spellers who qualify for Round Two then will engage in the National Spelling Bee’s only written competition from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. (MDT), with the results announced during an assembly later today.
The bee’s third round begins at 6 a.m. (MDT) on Thursday.
The competition will continue through successive rounds until a winner is determined.
The champion speller, who will be announced at 2 p.m. (MDT) on Thursday, wins $12,000 cash, along with other prizes.