C-h-a-m-p-i-o-n. That’s the title that Oakdale Junior High School eighth grader Rachelle Pabalan earned at the recent countywide spelling bee. She tied for the first place award at the Stanislaus County Spelling Championship on Nov. 9.
The county event featured the spelling prowess of 41 students from 22 schools and was held at the Martin G. Petersen Event Center in Modesto. Pabalan’s peer, OJHS eighth grader Marian Pagaduan, earned a gold medal at the county spelling bee as well.
Pabalan said that her strategy for the county spelling contest was to study when she could, but not “overwork” it. She said that a big part of the competition is having the mentality to face it. She added that she took a nap in the car on the way there, which helped her relax.
Pabalan and Pagaduan had similar study strategies to prepare for the county bee, studying at home with family. Pabalan said that some schools had coaches, but she found that it was best for her to go to a website with a word list, study the words and then practice spelling them. First, she crossed off the ones she already knew how to spell, then practiced the others. She kept going through the list, over and over, until she felt sure how to spell them all.
Pabalan has competed in school spelling bees since the fourth grade and has advanced to the county level every year since the fifth grade.
“It was kind of surreal… I started getting excited,” she said once she realized she was advancing into the final phases of the competition.
“I was, overall, confident,” she said. “…There was no part where I was particularly stumped.”
She added that the experience was very fulfilling. She said that she felt like an Olympic athlete trying year after year and then finally getting the top honor.
Pabalan and her co-champion from Hanshaw Middle School of Modesto will represent Stanislaus County at the state championship spelling bee in San Rafael on May 14, 2011. Some of the words that the champions spelled correctly at the county bee were: blitzkrieg, euphemism, and deleterious.
Pabalan said that after winning, she was given an inch-thick study guide with words and definitions to prepare. She said that her study strategy will mimic that which she did to prepare for the county contest.
“I just have to make sure I can be as confident as I can be in May and do my best for Oakdale,” she said.