Elaine Pimentel, a 12-year-old sixth-grader at Franklin Elementary School, defeated 24 other competitors to claim first place last week at the annual Los Angeles County Elementary Spelling Bee and will soon vie for a state title.
For the 13th year, the county spelling bee hosted district-level spelling champions in fourth through sixth grades throughout L.A. County, and the children competed for participation certificates, gift bags and trophies for the top three winners.
The top two county winners will be sponsored by the L.A. County Office of Education to participate in the California State Elementary Spelling Bee to be held next month.
Elaine first competed in a school spelling bee when she was 9 years old, managing to place fourth.
After Elaine took a short break from spelling bees, a Franklin Elementary teacher pushed her to try competing again, which led to her earning a spot in the district competition and later her win at the county level.
"It was like wow, I think I have a real chance to win state," she said.
At the county contest, she said the word that was most challenging for her was "baccalaureate."
Veronica Pimentel, Elaine's mom, said her daughter has been an avid reader since the age of 3, often at a library reading and learning new words.
"It was natural for her," Veronica Pimentel said. "One of her favorite places in the word is the library."
What also came natural was Elaine Pimentel's competitive nature, which her mother said she inherited from her parents. When Elaine Pimentel isn't in school or reading, she's expending that competitive spirit at soccer practice.
That nature combined with some coaching and a love of reading helped Elaine Pimental place first, her mom said.
"It was amazing. I've always been one of those parents who says it's important [for my kids] to read and do academics at home," Veronica Pimentel said. "I feel honored, especially because it was my thing to put her in the library and help her find her love of words and reading."
Elaine Pimentel said she is now eager to compete in the state contest and hopes to go all the way to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.
"I'm kind of nervous. On the day of spelling bee, I don't study because I don't want to overthink," she said. "When I get there, I just spell the word."