Eighth grader wins Cumberland County spelling bee; heading to the nationals

The pandemic has turned our lives and our projects upside down.

But spelling champion Sophia Tun wouldn’t give the virus the last word.

In fact, Sophia herself had the last word on Friday morning – “serene.”

His correct spelling gave the eighth grader his second title in the Cumberland County Level III spelling bee, held at the Educational Resource Center on Elementary Drive in Fayetteville. She will face more than 200 regional winners at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, scheduled for June 1-2 in Washington, DC. The event will be televised on the ION network.

Sophia, who is 13, attends Pine Forest Middle School. His parents are his mother, Kyawt Swe, and his father, Nay Tun. She has an 11 year old brother.

In 2020, she won the Tier III County Bee as a sixth grader.

“Ultimatum,” she said when asked for her winning word that year. Then she smiled broadly: “ULTIMATUM. Ultimatum.

Sophia didn’t have her chance to compete in DC in 2020; the coronavirus pandemic, then in its infancy, canceled the Scripps Bee.

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Friday’s finalists were all winners of their classroom and school-wide bees and a Level II bee earlier this week. In addition to Sophia, they were Danica Decker, who was a finalist in the county bee, from Stoney Point Elementary School; Cadence Grant from Alderman Road Primary School; Aubrey Hinderaker of Ben Martin Elementary School; Rondo Halliday of VanStory Hills Elementary School; Jala Nguyen from Ponderosa Elementary School; and Makai Sillekens-Longsworth from District 7 Elementary School.

Timely victory

Sophia’s win on Friday was timely; in eighth grade, she is in her final year of eligibility for the Scripps contest.

Among the words she spelled correctly en route to the county championship on Friday were “scraggly”, “tragicomic” and “flumes”.

Sophia Tun won the Cumberland County Level III Spelling Bee, held at the Educational Resource Center on Elementary Drive in Fayetteville, on Friday, February 11, 2022. She will go on to compete against more than 200 regional winners in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, scheduled June 1-2 in Washington, DC The event will be televised on the ION Network.  Sophia also won the 2020 County Bee, but the national event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sophia said she trains for bees by studying daily with her father.

“He says the words and I just spell them,” she says.

In competition, she says her strategy is to stay focused on herself.

“I pretend that, like, nobody else is there, and it’s just me,” she says, “and I’m like spelling the words. It’s just me. I’m not focusing on anybody else. ‘other.

But Sophia is clearly aware of alternate spellings when it’s not her turn to spell. At one point, she gave an encouraging nod to Danica Decker, with whom she shared a table at the bee. Danica had just carefully spelled a tricky word.

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Last year’s local and national bees were held virtually.

On Friday, organizer Jennifer Lloyd said it was good to be back in person.

“If we’ve learned anything from our experiences in the pandemic, it’s to not take for granted the opportunities we have to come together to celebrate,” says K-5 ELA Program Specialist Lloyd. “Our spelling bees this week have been a celebratory time…celebrating learning…celebrating our community partnerships and celebrating our outstanding Cumberland County students.”

Opinion writer Myron B. Pitts can be reached at [email protected] or 910-486-3559.

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