BELEN — A decades old tradition brought 21 of the county’s best spelling students together last week.
Coming from Los Lunas Schools, Belen Consolidated Schools, St. Mary’s Catholic School and School of Dreams Academy, students and their supporters came to St. Mary’s in Belen to see who would be the winner of the Valencia County Spelling Bee.
After 10 rounds, Ashley Hidalgo, a sixth-grader at Sundance Elementary in Los Lunas, took first place by correctly spelling “aquafer.”
In second place was Joshua Lipshultz an eighth-grader at Los Lunas Middle School. He and Hidalgo dueled it out for four rounds with Lipshultz missing the word “exorcist.”
Demetrio Pino, a seventh-grader at LLMS, and Porter Hassell-Wells, a sixth-grader at School of Dreams Academy, were both knocked out in the sixth round and tied for third place.
Hidalgo and Lipshultz will go on to compete in the state spelling bee on Saturday, March 21, at Albuquerque Academy in Albuquerque.
Pino and Hassell-Wells are the alternates for the competition.
When asked what her hopes were for the county spelling bee, Hidalgo said she only had one concern.
“My main goal was to not be the first out,” Hidalgo said with a grin.
The four said they were nervous up on the small stage, with Lipshultz noting for him, it got worse as the rounds kept going.
“Once you’re out, you can go sit down and kind of relax,” Lipshultz said.
As they sat and waited for other spellers to take their turn at the mic, the four said they would silently spell the words as well. Sometimes they were right, sometimes not.
“It was good to know you would have gotten someone else’s work right,” said Hassell-Wells.
Pino said sounding out the words and breaking them down into parts helped him tackle the contest.
Getting the word list ahead of time to study for the county bee was also a huge assist, Hidalgo said.
“They were in a completely different order,” she said, “but you learn to spell them in your head.”
The students said they were looking forward to moving on to the state competition.