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John Muir Middle School student finishes second in spelling bee

John Muir Middle School student finishes second in spelling bee
John Muir Middle School student Mihika Chechi, left, and English teacher Ted DeVirgilis celebrate the runner-up victory at the Los Angeles Regional finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on March 4. (Photo courtesy of Yogendra Chechi)

A John Muir Middle School student is making it her goal to eventually reach the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Seventh-grade student Mihika Chechi was the runner-up in the Los Angeles Regional finals on March 4 at Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, just one spot short from getting the invitation to the national finals in Washington, D.C.

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As a runner-up, Mihika could still go to the national championship if this year's winner, Dina Miranda from Stanford Middle School in Long Beach, cannot compete. However, Mihika said she thinks she could get there on her own next year.

"I definitely want to try to make it all the way to nationals next year, as that will also be the last year to try," she said in an email. "I feel I have a better knowledge of words and how each language differs in their spelling rules, and I want to keep adding to that."

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It is the second time Mihika has competed in the regional finals, finishing in 10th place last year, which she said was a surprise to her.

"I was still disappointed because I felt that I could do better, so I put more into my practice and study of languages and their origins this time," Mihika said.

With help from her father, Yogendra Chechi, and her English teacher, Ted DeVirgilis, Mihika said she studied the official list of words given to contestants. Fortunately for her, the list of words was the same as the one she received last year, saying that she did not have to spend too much time memorizing those words.

She then turned to a book on commonly misspelled words to help her prepare for any curveballs the judges might throw at her. Mihika even watched other spelling bees that were held this year to see how difficult the off-list words were.

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Though she ended up finishing in the runner-up position this year, Mihika said it would be a dream come true if she could make it to the finals in Washington, D.C. next year.

"Even if I don't win nationals, which is my ultimate goal, I'm glad I made it this far and got this learning experience, which has not only improved my writing, but also my vocabulary," she said.

Twitter: @acocarpio

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