Home team cleans up at Central spelling bee

By CIndy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

PIÑON, Ariz., Feb. 6, 2014

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(Times photo — Cindy Yurth)

Cameron Fuller, the first home-schooled spelling bee winner in Chinle Agency history, correctly spells a word to stay in the competiton Wednesday at the Chinle Agency Spelling Bee.

Is there such a thing as a home court advantage at a spelling bee?

There certainly seemed to be Wednesday as students from the hosting Piñon Unified School District swept six of the 10 positions at the Chinle Agency Spelling Bee to qualify for the Navajo Nation Spelling Bee on March 13.

Eighth-grade champion Catherine Lopez and runner-up Raquel Tom were from Piñon Middle School and Piñon Accelerated Middle School, respectively; seventh-grade champ Nykesha Nez was from Piñon Middle; and both the fifth- and fourth-grade champions, Chenoa Begaye and Latisha Mike, hailed from Piñon Elementary as did fourth-grade runner up Nigel James.

Only the sixth-grade match, won by Cameron Fuller (home-schooled) with Cina Curley (Canyon de Chelly Elementary) as the runner-up, did not include a top finisher from Piñon.

Chinle Elementary claimed the fifth-grade runner-up, Casey Jones, while the seventh-grade runner-up, Mikail Morgan, was from Chinle Junior High School.

Even Piñon's elementary school sponsor, library technician Presilita Bia, was hard-pressed to explain her team's success.

"It's only my second year as a sponsor, and these kids have only had a week and a half to study," she said, explaining that she was out sick most of December. "I gave some of them a word list, but they lost it."

She did say the kids had good luck with words — a lot of the words used in Wednesday's bee had come up at the school's spelling bee as well.

The bee also featured Chinle Agency's first home-schooled winner, Fuller, who was a force to be reckoned with last year, when she represented Mesa View Elementary and won the lower-grades round of the Navajo Nation bee.

It was fortunate her parents, Greg and Regina Fuller, had pulled her out to home-school her this year, or she wouldn't have been able to compete; Mesa View didn't field a team this year.

Greg Fuller said he and his wife, a nurse at Chinle's IHS hospital, were somewhat at a loss helping their precocious daughter study for the bee.

"We couldn't find anyone who had entered a home-schooled child in the spelling bee," said Greg Fuller, a stay-at-home dad. "We just tried whatever we could."

Fortunately again, the Fullers are close neighbors to Samuel Yeager, last year's Navajo Nation winner, and he offered materials and advice.

Cameron, 12, did not even look worried as she coasted through "worrisome" to steal the title from Curley, a close competitor who went head-to-head with Fuller for five rounds.

The most exciting competition was the fifth-grade match, which went 14 rounds, the last eight of which were a pitched battle between Jones and Begaye. It was a good "scenario" for Begaye, who won when she spelled that word correctly.

The next bee among the regional competitions is Fort Defiance Agency's Friday at Greasewood Springs Community School, followed by Northern Agency's next Wednesday and Western's next Thursday.

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