By Ryan Lengerich
Chay Chenault says he has the experience. The confidence. And the genes.
His mother Sheri Chenault said her son comes from a family of savvy spellers, and if his thinking proves true, he’ll be capitol-bound come Saturday evening.
The Floyd Middle School seventh grader is slated to compete in his third regional spelling bee sponsored by Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Clovis Community College’s Town Hall.
“I think I might have a pretty good chance of winning it this year,” said Chay, who advanced to the fourth round in last year’s event. “It’s pretty fun, you get to meet a lot of new people there.”
The winner will receive a trip to Washington D.C. to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Chay is one of 36 winners from area school spelling bees who qualified to participate in the regional event.
Returning to competition is defending regional champion Michael Martinez, a 13-year-old eighth grader at Tucumcari Middle School. Michael was knocked out in the first round of last year’s national bee. He said the key to victory is staying positive.
“Well, you’re just thinking, ‘Wow, I might just have a chance to win this thing,” Michael said. “I am going to be nervous naturally, but I am not really the type of kid that gets too nervous.”
Michael said watching the spellers at last year’s national competition was helpful. He admits that French words give him the most trouble.
“It is just the accent and how they sound and how they are pronounced,” Martinez said. “Some of them sound nothing like they are spelled.”
Words are chosen at random for the spellers. Competitors are eliminated after misspelling any word. To win the competition, one of the final two spellers must correctly spell the word misspelled by their competitor, plus another word.
Texico Junior High student Brett Anderson is making his first appearance in the regional spelling bee.
“I think I am looking forward, but I am a little nervous about going,” the 13-year-old said. “I haven’t studied yet because I forget the words if I study too far ahead of time.”
Last year’s national spelling bee champion, Sai R. Gunturi, was a home-schooled eighth grader from Dallas. Sai won the title with the word “pococurante,” meaning indifferent or apathetic.
Chay will follow in the path set forth by his two older brothers, both of whom also competed in the regional spelling bee.
“All of my kids are pretty good spellers,” his mother said. “I think it’s something that comes natural for them.”
PNT Managing Editor Mike Linn contributed to this report.