An exciting few months of spelling bee competitions culminated with recognition of Valley View Elementary student Sonia Carrillo by the Los Angeles County Office of Education, or LACOE.
The office’s board of education invited the fifth-grader and her family, along with two other county students, to be honored during its regular board meeting Tuesday afternoon in Downey.
Carrillo placed in the top 15 out of a field of 55 competitors from 29 counties at the California State Elementary Spelling Bee held Saturday in Stockton.
The 11-year-old lasted seven of 11 rounds in an event, which was won by Santa Clara County’s Vayun Krishna.
“It’s really scary,” Carrillo said about competing. “[There are] so many kids and the audience is all looking at you and you don’t know if you’re going to hear the scary [elimination] bell.”
Carrillo correctly spelled several words Saturday, such as “linen,” “exploratory,” “fragrant,” “feminism” and “verbose.”
She ultimately tripped up on “didactic,” which dictionary.com defines as, “intended for instruction; instructive.”
“They told me it was Greek, and Greek words usually have like a ‘y’ or a ‘k,’” Carrillo said, “but I knew it didn’t have ‘k’ and I thought the ‘i’ was a ‘y,’ and I was wrong.”
However, the setback didn’t ruin the trip for Carrillo’s family, including her father, Martin.
“I think it’s great,” he said of the state spelling bee. “It’s a good diversion for the kids, and it’s a new experience for them.”
Sonia Carrillo’s grandmother, Eleanor, flew in from Miami for the competition.
“We’ve been used to her winning up until that moment,” Eleanor Carrillo said. “She won them all — her class, her school, her district, the county. So we’re very proud of her.”
Sonia Carrillo’s acknowledgement on Tuesday was due to her winning the Los Angeles County Spelling Bee Championship in Alhambra on Mach 13.
There, she lasted 14 rounds and clinched victory by spelling “dichotomy” correctly.
Montebello Intermediate’s Carlos Hernandez and Carver Academy’s Luv Kumas, who finished second and third in the county, respectively, were also recognized on Tuesday.
“I supervise lawyers, and I know that lawyers couldn’t spell some of the words that you all are spelling,” said board President Thomas A. Saenz, a former Alhambra Unified sixth-grade spelling champion, during the meeting.
Carrillo punched her ticket to the county championships when she won Glendale Unified’s 43rd annual Elementary School Spelling Bee championship on Feb. 4 when she outlasted Marshall fifth-grader Lazar Ratovic.
If there’s a piece of advice Carrillo has for future spellers, it’s to stay calm.
“You probably shouldn’t get nervous, even though that’s hard — because when you get nervous, you miss stuff,” Carrillo said.