Santa Ana : McFadden Spelling Whiz Advances to Nationals

Dung Minh Le, 14, a straight-A student at McFadden Intermediate School in Santa Ana, will represent Orange County in the National Spelling Bee in June after defeating nearly 100 other junior high school contestants this week.

The soft-spoken eighth-grader, who moved to the United States from her native Vietnam 10 years ago, had few problems in the Orange County contest Wednesday, but her spelling coach at McFadden, Chuck Ogle, said Dung will have to overcome her shyness. "Since the national contest is an oral exercise," said Ogle, "Dung is going to have to adjust to spelling the words out loud. She is very shy and must learn to speak up."

In the Orange County match, the answers were written and then judged, including the final word, "raillery," which only Dung (pronounced young) spelled correctly. There were three finalists.

"I thought it was one of the easier words we were asked to spell," Dung said.

McFaddan Principal Judy Duesterberg, who celebrated the spelling victory by putting the youngster's name on the school marquee, said Dung has won other spelling bees and "will be a strong competitor" in the nationals.

"She works very hard in all her studies," she said, pointing out that she is preparing for an academic triathlon in May.

The 22nd annual Orange County spelling contest was open to seventh- and eighth-graders and presented by the Orange County Department of Education at El Toro High School. Dung competed last year but failed to make the finals. "I did better this year," she said, "because I'm more experienced now."

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