When 14-year-old Karen Opoku Appo comes home from school each day, she memorizes root words and spends hours being quizzed by her parents on how to spell words in past national spelling bees.
It’s been a tough routine preparing for the 95th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee later this month, where she will be one of three students representing Arizona.
Karen’s spelling bee journey began at the classroom level at Marana Middle School. She then went on to win her way through schools, school districts, county-wide bees, and eventually she won the Arizona Spelling Her Bee of March.
She won the state spelling bee on “Passage,” but before that she had to spell “chakidrosis,” “suspicious,” and “all the other crazy words,” she said.
“Eventually, the judges ran out of words and started telling us words that were easier to spell,” she said with a laugh.
Statewide Victory:Marana’s 13-year-old wins Arizona Spelling Bee
Karen, Arizona, 8th grade, Opal Mishra, 6th grade at Basha Accelerated Middle School in Chandler, and Tazba Spurhan, 8th grade at Tsefutsoi Middle School in Window Rock, celebrated the end of the year with Merry. I am planning to travel to Rand. Contest grade.
They are one of 231 spellers vying for a championship award that includes a trophy called the Scripps Cup and a $50,000 check. Contestants range in age from 9 to 14 years old.
For Karen, the spelling bee gave her confidence. “I’m a really shy person,” she said. “I hate going to big events, standing on stage, and looking at big crowds,” she said.
But to get to this point, she said, she had to perform a lot of stages. She has trained herself not to be nervous. “Nerves don’t help much when you’re trying to do something this big,” she said.
She says her favorite word she’s ever met is “café crutch.”
“It’s German and I like the word because it means informal meetings and gossiping over coffee,” she said.
Thirteen-year-old Tazba prepares for competitions by learning the roots and spelling patterns of different languages. She has taken spelling lessons in German, Italian, English, Spanish, Japanese and French. Her favorite word is “Rendezvous”.
After winning the Navajo Nation Spelling Bee, Tazba advanced to the National Spelling Bee. “Dorking” was her winning word there.
“In my adult life, I never really met anyone who was native at anything,” she says. “So I’m really proud to be able to represent the Navajo Nation in Washington.”
Tazba’s spell bee journey changed her perspective on her own abilities. “I’ve never been the type to go all in on anything,” she said. “The fact that she was able to keep studying and working every day to get here really changed her view of herself.”
Last year, 14-year-old Harini Logan from San Antonio won the National Spelling Bee. In her first spell-off of the competition, she spelled her 22 words correctly in her 90 seconds, securing her victory. Her winning word was “moorhen”.
The qualifying rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee will begin on May 30th, with the quarter-finals and semi-finals on May 31st, with the final scheduled for June 1st.
The semi-finals and finals will air on ION and will be free to watch over the air and most cable, satellite and streaming providers. Qualifiers will be streamed on ION Plus and Bounce XL. For more information on where you can observe bees, please visit: Spelby.com/watch.