Portales 11-year-old to compete in state spelling bee

By Mickey Winfield: PNT staff writer

Ergonomic, E-R-G-O-N-O-M-I-C, ergonomic.

With those nine letters, Portales 11-year-old Mathew Sanchez punched his ticket to the state spelling bee in March.

Instead of watching American Idol or ESPN, the Portales 6th-grader was studying word origins and etymology, and it paid off in a big way.

Sanchez correctly spelled ‘ergonomic’ to win the Roosevelt County Spelling Bee on Jan. 31.

Once the county championship word was announced, the 89th word of the competition, Mathew breathed a sigh of relief — he had studied the word.

“I was excited because I knew I was going to win,” Mathew said.

Mathew outlasted seven other spellers to claim the title.

“I felt confident because I studied,” Mathew said. “I was determined to win and a little nervous.”

“He’s always been a good speller,” Mathew’s mom Lisa said.

Mathew’s on a winning streak of sorts.

Last year he won his 5th-grade spelling bee and followed that up with a 6th-grade championship in January along with his most recent county championship.

His mom teaches 4th-grade at Portales’ Valencia Elementary School and said her son gets his spelling skills from both parents.

“I better be careful here,” Lisa said. “I think it comes from both (of us). I think his dad and I are both good written spellers but I think he’s better than both of us when it comes to oral.”

By his own estimation, Mathew spent between 32 and 48 hours getting prepared for the spelling bee, practicing about two or three hours per day since the middle of January.

And before that, he invested around two hours per day getting prepared for his 6th-grade bee.

“We sure have encouraged him,” Lisa said. “We haven’t pushed him. This was all on his own. He hasn’t had his TV on in about a month. He’s really dedicated.”

Mathew’s aunt in Albuquerque, Perci Gurule, also committed hours of her time to helping her nephew win the bee.

“When his homework is done, his extra time goes to studying for the spelling bee,” Lisa said.

Sanchez’ next mountain to climb comes in the form of the New Mexico state spelling bee in Albuquerque next month.

Spellers through 8th-grade will be competing for the right to go to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. this summer. While the Portales 6th-grader will be surrounded by older competitors in Albuquerque — his mom says he’s used to it.

“He was one of the younger ones at our county bee,” Lisa said.