Education

Fresno County spelling bee: Clovis Unified fifth-grader continues winning streak

By Mackenzie Mays

mmays@fresnobee.com

Watch students' smart tactics at Fresno County Spell-Off

Spelling bee contestants have several tools at their disposal to help wrap their heads around a word, and the 80 students who competed in the Fresno County Spelling Bee used all of them. The event on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 was, for the first time
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Spelling bee contestants have several tools at their disposal to help wrap their heads around a word, and the 80 students who competed in the Fresno County Spelling Bee used all of them. The event on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 was, for the first time

Ananya Vinay is thorough.

Before every word the 11-year-old was asked to spell at the Fresno County Spell-Off on Tuesday, she slid down the microphone stand to fit her height and carefully asked the moderator several questions.

Definition? Can you use it in a sentence? Any alternate pronunciations? Part of speech? Language of origin? Am I saying this correctly?

Her meticulous methodology paid off. Ananya – the reigning California State Elementary Spelling Bee Champion – won the county competition on Tuesday, and will return to the state competition in April. But her win this time around is different: The county champ will also advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee near Washington, D.C., in May.

Fugman Elementary School fifth grader Ananya Vinay won the Fresno County Spell-Off on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, and will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The national contest will be held May 22–May 27, 2016.

“I’m excited about meeting with all of the spellers and also about being on national television,” the Fugman Elementary fifth-grader said after her win, wearing a glittery pink Superwoman symbol on her T-shirt.

Nearly 80 elementary and middle school students from across Fresno County competed at Fresno State on Tuesday. Ananya won the final round by correctly spelling “babka” – the Polish sweet bread. She beat out runner-up Willem Kuenen, an eighth-grader at Clay Elementary School in Kingsburg.

The two students will represent the county at the elementary and middle school state competitions, alongside finalists Nikayla Franco, of Liberty Elementary in Kerman, and Allison Van Groningen of Conejo Middle School in Laton.

Ananya’s mother, Anupama Poliyedath, said her daughter studies words nonstop, but mostly credits her love of reading for her spelling successes.

“We’re happy and surprised – there’s always that element of chance, even when you study,” Poliyedath said. “The national competition is going to be a different ballgame. But whatever happens, it will be an experience.”

Ananya’s family had big plans to celebrate after her win on Tuesday: They were headed to a book fair.

The Bee co-sponsored the event, along with the Fresno County Office of Education, Foundation at Fresno County Office of Education, Fresno State, Chevron, Educational Employees Credit Union, Educational Resource Consultants and the River Park Shopping Center.

Sponsors pay for Ananya and one family member’s trip to the national competition.

Tuesday, March 15, is the 22nd annual Fresno County Spell Off. This year the overall winner will get to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

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