Words get ‘trapped’  in her mind

Spelling champion explains her ability

Twelve-year-old Lindsay Gnesios, left, has to think a bit as she spells a word for the judges while fellow competitors Filip Rewers, center, and Matt Prinster wait their turn during the 2009 District #51 Spelling Bee held Saturday at Holy Family Catholic School.

Lindsay Gnesios had never seen the word “spoony” before Saturday. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t spell it.

The East Middle School seventh-grader asked the judge for the word’s language of origin, then rattled off the correct six letters in order. Then she was given her next word to spell, “anecdote,” which she had seen before. One a-n-e-c-d-o-t-e later, Lindsay reigned as the c-h-a-m-p-i-o-n of the 2009 Mesa County Spelling Bee.

The 12-year-old is one of eight students from the county who qualified for the state meet March 14 in Denver. The event is a qualifier for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, slated for May 26-28 in Washington, D.C.

Lindsay said she entered the day believing it was possible to win the competition, even though the event included the defending champion and another returning state qualifier. She said most events she enters don’t yield victories, so several hours after her midday conquest she said, “I’m still trying to grasp that I won it.”

Explaining her ability to spell well, Lindsay said she reads a lot, which exposes her to words, and they get trapped in her mind. At least that’s what her mother tells her.

“I don’t always think so, but my mom says that I have a good memory,” Lindsay said. “When I see a word somewhere, I remember it.”

She might have made things easier if she had done two things differently: One, read more difficult books, and, two, spend more time going through the booklet of words the competitors can use to prepare for the spelling bee.

She explained the former with: “Usually I read stuff that kinda makes my mom mad, because they’re below my reading level.”

For the latter, she offered, “I meant to study the booklet, but I really didn’t.”

Saturday’s runner-up, on the other hand, took advantage of the booklet. Filip Rewers, a seventh-grader at Holy Family Catholic School, which hosted the bee, said he didn’t really have any advice except to study the words in the booklet and try to remain calm.

“Take deep breaths and focus on what you’re doing,” Filip said, adding he became less nervous with each round of the oral competition, which featured the final 20 competitors after a written competition narrowed the field from 71 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

Filip, 12, said it helped him, too, that he knows another language: Polish.

He moved from Chicago to Poland when he was 2, then moved to Grand Junction when he was 9.

Having the defending champion in the field didn’t intimidate Filip, whose approach was: “I would think anything can happen, even though there’s a champion there.”

The defending champion, East Middle School seventh-grader Andy Bowen, did not qualify for state, and Lindsay said that surprised her. If not for an unexpected, early slip-up, she said, “I think he’d have probably won.”

Filip’s bid for the title ended with the word “reptilian,” but second place didn’t discourage him.

“I was actually very happy,” he said. “Even if you don’t get a trophy, you get to go to state.”

And there, once again, anything can happen, he said.

Filip will have plenty of company from schoolmates on the trip.

Six of the qualifiers are from Holy Family: Filip; seventh-grader Matt Prinster, who placed third; sixth-grader Sam Cyphers, who took fourth; eighth-grader Ricky Oakley, who claimed fifth; seventh-grader Jose Soto, who finished sixth; and sixth-grader Briggs Oakley, who placed seventh.

Eighth-place finisher was Andrew Palmer, an eighth-grader at Redlands Mesa Middle School.


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