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Faith Baca - 2017 State Champion!

Faith Baca, an 8th grader at Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning, won the 2017 Colorado State Spelling Bee.  When runner-up Luke Henson, an 8th grader of Christian Home Educators of Colorado, misspelled aubade, "a morning love song," Faith correctly spelled rhabdoid, "shaped like a rod" to claim the title.  Third place went to Edwin Wojcik an 8th grader from DSST Conservatory Green. DPS spellers
Maria Ciobanu, 6th grader at Denver School of the Arts, and Angelina Holm, 5th grader from University Park Elementary tied for 4th place.
Faith’s Story:  My spelling bee journey began in the crowded lunchroom at Centennial Academy back in the first grade.  As I sat in the audience I glanced at the stage to see kids, some nervous, some confident, some indifferent.  My attention was captured when a girl misspelled "blessed."  She was older than I was, yet I knew how to spell it.  A seed was planted in my mind then, and it grew stronger over the next several years.  Little did I know just how far it would take me.
Fast forward two years.  This time I was sitting in a different lunchroom in a different school.  I was in third grade and I was delighted to realize that I could spell every word in that competition, but frustrated that I was too young to compete.  It seems I have always had an innate understanding of language and spelling, and throughout my life I’ve done a lot of reading.  Not only books, but signs, recipes, instruction manuals, ingredients lists, and so on.  Also, my brain seems to absorb things quickly, like a sponge, and I’m constantly looking at things as if they are puzzles that need to be solved.  So, I’ve never had to concentrate too hard to learn a wealth of new words and understand patterns and languages.
In fourth grade I was finally allowed to compete in the spelling bee and put my orthographic interest to the test.  I was soon immersed in the world of spelling as an active interest and discovering new things like roots and derivations, as well as learning the words in Spell It!  I placed in the top three in my class and scored perfectly on the written test.  I studied the list given to me every day by writing down the words over and over (I still have the notebook in which I practiced and enjoy the nostalgia when I look at it).  At last, my moment arrived to spell on stage at the school bee.  I spelled all of my words easily.  Finally it came down to one other girl and myself.  She stumbled on her word.  I knew that word, spelled it correctly, and anxiously awaited my championship word.  The word was "beatitude," which the pronouncer mispronounced, but I knew how to spell it and was confident.  I uttered the letters slowly, and then stood still and was enveloped by applause.  That was my first spelling bee and my first win.  I went to the state spelling bee that year but didn’t make it very far.  However, I did learn a lot about the world of spelling bees.  Over the course of the next few years my confidence was  growing, as were my linguistic skills and interests.
In sixth grade I made it to the state spelling bee again and came in 8th place.  I became aware of the Summer Semantics program with Mr. Schaefer.  Summer Semantics was a lot of fun.  I met new people who shared my affinity for spelling and found my niche.  In 7th grade I placed 5th at the state spelling bee, after which Mr. Schaefer approached me with a different offer, to coach me.  I was elated as I had been curious why everyone else had a coach.  We met every week and went over lists, language patterns, roots, and the consolidated word lists.  This led to a new offer.  To also be coached by Himanvi Kopuri, the 2013 Colorado State Spelling Bee champion.  I studied much harder now going into my last year of eligibility, and I grew all the more determined to win the state spelling bee.  At the end of the year my mom and I traveled to Washington D. C. to watch the national spelling bee.  The experience was surreal and I felt as though I could be on the stage.  As a result I studied more and more and my aspirations were soon to become a reality. 
As it turned out 8th grade was my year to shine.  I had an undefeated year in spelling bees.  With the state bee approaching quickly, I prepared rigorously and read everything I thought might have a spelling word in it.  I was ready to win.  Saturday, March 15, turned out to be the culmination of my work in spelling bees.  After the written test in the morning I was relieved to learn that I had made it to the oral rounds.  I told myself that while winning would be amazing, getting out would not be detrimental to me.  This helped me keep my calm and composure.  As the bee went on it was difficult watching some of my 8th grade friends exit the stage knowing that this was the end of their spelling bee careers.  When two of us remained I felt pretty confident.  I was ready to fight for the championship, going through many rounds using my knowledge of the lexicon to piece together difficult words.  It wasn’t to be that dramatic.  Three words into the championship round my opponent misspelled aubade, which I knew.  My next word was relatively simple, splanchnology, and then came rhabdoid.  I don’t know why I knew this word because I didn’t remember studying it, I probably just internalized it at some point along the way. I started saying the letters slowly and deliberately.  My mom said she could hear my heart beat as I said each letter.  Then, I heard the applause erupt, and I knew that my hard work had paid off.  The trophy was presented to me.  I was overcome with emotions, mostly I was happy and grateful.  I was encircled by my peers and supporters, some of whom I had never seen.
After taking a week off from studying, I was seized by the trajectory to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and it took me a bit to become accustomed to the increased pace of preparation.  I kept working with both of my coaches. I was asked for newspaper and television interviews.  Scripps’ communications increased as the dates grew closer.  Spellers were asked to take pictures at famous or favorite landmarks in our hometowns.  We needed to order tickets for events in Washington.  While I enjoyed the interviews and meeting such nice people, the pace became almost frantic, not to mention the demands of the end of the school year.  I proceeded to study like never before.
When the Bee finally came, I felt ready.  During Bee week, I always had something to do, whether it was a tour to go on, a read aloud, or a voting ceremony.  I would say my favorite part was the Spellebrity competition, as this was a good opportunity to meet people from other places and take a break from spelling.  Also, to be honest, the hotel was probably the best part of the trip.  I wandered up and down every hall of the Brobdingnagian Building.  Before I knew it it was time for the written test.  I spelled every word correctly and missed very few vocabulary words.  I learned that "Famous" Semantics Words are VERY important to study, as some of them appeared on the test.  I felt very confident.  The next day it was time to spell on stage.  I was beginning to get a bit nervous.  My first word was sempiternal, no problem.  I’ve learned at spelling bees that if the person before you gets an easy word, you’ll probably get a difficult one.  The speller before me got hallucinate; my heart sank, my word might be a challenge.  I looked at Dr. Bailey and tuned out the rest of the room.  I calmed myself down.  "Parcity."  I was immediately distraught; I didn’t know the word, but I concentrated.  Parcity means frugality.  So my mind went to sparse, which made sense.  And then I thought of parsimonious, meaning frugal.  I had come up with a reasonable spelling and I uttered the letters p-a-r-s-i-t-y.  The guess really made sense--until I heard the dreaded sound--the Bell. 
It was a stinging loss, but I recovered fairly quickly and realized it wasn’t the end of the world.  I was not really disappointed in myself, I was more down about my spelling bee journey having ended.  At least until I considered all the doors the spelling circuit has opened for me.  I every word I studied, there is a story.  I became fascinated with so many new things.  As I trace the origins of words, many new subjects have piqued my interest, whether it be cultures, religions, medicine, music, language, science, math, history, or especially, food.  Having a large vocabulary and deep lexical understanding is such a gift I can’t even imagine where these things will take me in life.  I have also gained confidence in myself along with a strong work ethic.  So as I walk away from the bee world, I’m not really leaving.  I will stick around to help other spellers and Mr. Schaefer. 
I would like to convey my sincere gratitude to those who have supported me along the way.  Thank you to my mom and brother for being there for me no matter what.  I’d like to thank all of my family and friends for their support.  I would like to thank the Denver Post for sponsoring me and everyone at RMSEL who assisted me throughout this process.  I also want to thank all of my peers in DPS Semantics who have given me friendship, memories, competition, and an ultimately awesome time spelling.  And thank you to my two wonderful, selfless teachers, Himanvi and Mr. Schaefer.  I cannot fathom an adequate way to thank you for all you have given and taught me, and for showing me that "the journey is the thing."  



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