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It came down to laryngitis & bureaucracy
George Komure fourth grader Wisher Tabaco breaks a smile after spelling his last word correctly. - photo by HIME ROMERO

In the end, the championships came down to “laryngitis” and “bureaucracy.”

It was laryngitis that clinched the 1st place trophy for Lathrop School seventh-grader Justin Barber who was declared the champion in the grades 7-8 division of the annual District Spelling Bee held Thursday at the Lathrop High School Theater Building.

The winning word for Wisher Tabaco in the grades 4-6 division was “bureaucracy.”

It was not an easy victory for the fourth grader at George Komure Elementary School at Weston Ranch in French Camp. Second-place finisher Inna Obiso of Great Valley Elementary, also at Weston Ranch, waged a tough and tight fight for the top prize once the crowd was winnowed down to three. Walter Woodward Elementary sixth-grader Fernanda Ludvig Arao was the clear third-place finisher for incorrectly spelling “laryngitis.” But the top spot eventually had to be fought between Tabaco and Obiso after they correctly spelled “marsupial” and “morgue,” respectively.

In the first championship round between the two, both Tabaco and Obiso failed to spell the word “repetitious” correctly. Obiso was the first one to be called to the podium to spell the word. When she failed, Tabaco was asked to spell the same word which he also failed to do. That brought the contest to another round. This time, the word for Obiso was “sovereign.” Her answer was declared incorrect by Spelling Master Bonnie Bennett, principal of Joshua Cowell School. Tabaco, again, was asked to spell the same word. This time, he got it right.

But that was not the end of the evening’s nail biter yet. According to the rules, he had to spell correctly one more word to be declared the winner. The word he was asked to spell was “poignant.” Unfortunately, he got the spelling wrong.

In the audience, Tabaco’s parents, aunts, younger sibling and relatives displayed worried faces. His anxious mother Jenilyn bent her head to her chest as if in prayer one moment, and the next, she was covering her face with her open palms. Her son, though, remained cool and collected on the stage.

The second nail-biter round started with Obiso being asked to spell the word “umbrage.” Bennett declared her answer as incorrect. At which point, Tabaco was again asked to spell the same word. He got it right. And again for the win, he was asked to spell one final word: “hierarchy.” After struggling for a few moments, Bennett once again declared his answer as incorrect.

Once more, the two young students had to battle it out. Bennett asked Obiso to spell “adequacy.” Her spelling was declared incorrect. And, once again, the word was passed on to Tabaco who got the spelling right. Now, it was back once more to the word for the win for Tabaco: “bureaucracy.” This time, the Komure School fourth-grader, who had to tippy-toe to get his head as far above the podium as he possibly could to speak into the microphone, did not even need to write down the word on the scratch pad made available to all the contestants. He nailed the word correctly. At which point, his extended family erupted in smiles, clapping their hands and almost crying with joy.

The other winners in the grades 7 to 9 division were Haleigh Peterson, an 8th grader at Veritas School in Manteca who won second place, and Joshua Kong of Joshua Cowell School who finished third in the contest.

The upper spelling bee division was conducted as a written competition with the following serving as judges: School Board Trustee and retired MUSD teacher Evelyn Moore, Dr. Cheryl Meeker who is Senior Director of Elementary Education in the district, Tom James who is vice principal of Shasta and Golden West schools, Betty James, Lauri James who is department supervisor for elementary education, and Sharon Fang who is department supervisor for student services. Spelling Bee coordinator was Tevani Liotard, while Shasta School Principal Audrey Greene served as the master of ceremonies.

The winning spellers Thursday night will receive their trophies during a school board meeting. As the district winners, they also will be registered for the San Joaquin County Spelling Bee to be held Wednesday, Dec. 7, in the Wentworth Education Center at 3 p.m. A mandatory elimination round for participants in the grades 4-6 division will take place Monday, Dec. 5, at the same location starting at 4 p.m. The top 15 contestants from this round will then be invited to the finals on Dec. 7.

Next stop for the two top winners in both divisions will be the state competition set for April at the San Joaquin County Office of Education.

All the students who competed in Thursday’s district spelling bee were already winners for being the champion spellers at their own schools. Before the spelling bee, each one of them was presented a medal for that honor.