Third time's a charm for hard-working, state champion speller


Runner-up Shiva Rajagopal, a seventh-grader from Churchill County, couldn't get it right.

E-n-d-o-s-t-r-a-c-u-m - but Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School eighth-grader Bonnie Slocum could. and on March 25 she became the best speller in Nevada.

As state champion, Bonnie will now go on to the national spelling bee May 31-June 1 in Washington, D.C.

To cinch the top speller's spot for her school, she spelled "Stygian." - S-t-y-g-i-a-n - gave Bonnie her third shot to represent Nevada in the Scripp's National Spelling Bee.

The 14-year-old placed eighth in 2004 and fifth last year.

"Stygian," an adjective meaning of or relating to the River Styx, or extremely dark, gloomy or forbidding.

Endostracum is the lining of a shell.

"I was thinking when I was studying that this is our year," Bonnie said. "I would have been surprised if I didn't win."

She said being in the state spelling bee for three years helped her in the competition this year.

"I knew what to expect," she said. "There were a lot of familiar faces. But I was overwhelmed with winning. My family was sitting on the edge of their seats and jumped up when I won.

"The winner of the national spelling bee wins a scholarship or something, but I'm not too concerned with that. I'm just glad to go to Washington, but the farther you get, the better. I'll do my best," she said.

More than 10 million students participated at the classroom, grade, school, district, county and state levels.

Las Vegas had four spellers in top 10 finishers.

There were 44 kids from sixth, seventh and eighth grades from 15 of the state's 17 counties who participated in the state competition.

Bonnie's mother, Stephanie Slocum Freer, said she helps her daughter prepare for the spelling bee.

"Bonnie practices for two hours every night," said Slocum. "I drill her on the words. They put 4,800 words in the study book. Probably 30 percent of the words you never heard of."

Bonnie said the pool of words used for the national spelling bee is made up of 250,000 words "plus whatever else they can come up with."

"The kids that win these bees already know the rules," she said. "They can spell even when they don't know the meaning of the words."

"We knew who her competition was and how that family studied. I knew we had to study more," Freer said.

Bonnie's trip to Las Vegas for the state spelling bee was funded by the Douglas County School District.

Scripps pays for the student to travel to Washington for the national spelling bee.


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