Speller hopes to bee lucky

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Christina Benitscheck is studying words like “enlivened,” “spectacular” and “flabbergasted” for this week’s Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

But she’s sticking to the simple words to describe her excitement.

“Every time it (hits me), it’s like, ‘Wow,’ because a year and three months ago, it was a distant dream,” said Christina, 11.

The Clovis Home School Pact student leaves today to take part in the national bee. She qualified by winning the regional bee in March at Clovis Community College.

She will be competing against 285 other regional champions at the Independence Concourse of the Grand Hyatt Washington.

Christina and her mother, Judy Benitscheck, have been frequent visitors to the bee Web site (www.spellingbee.com). The site includes a composite list of words appearing in previous bees, but they know to study from other sources as well.

“They can actually give you any word from the unabridged dictionary,” Judy said. “She knows she can’t study them all before the bee, but we’re trying to learn. We’re just hoping for some luck.”

That’s about all of the online studying Christina’s doing for the bee. She said words are more commonly misspelled on Web sites than other mediums. Also, she commonly gets an e-mail about studies that prove people can read the most poorly spelled words if only the first and last letters are in the correct positions — she said she hates that e-mail.

Instead, she spends her time looking at the composite list and the dictionary for nine to 12 hours a day, and she does some passive learning through reading. Her favorite books are in the Harry Potter series, but Christina said every book helps.

“You can even read craft books,” she said, “and find good words like ‘potpourri’ and ‘decoupage.’”

While Christina would like to win the bee, she and her mother know most winners are national bee veterans or first-timers who had to survive much larger regionals than what was offered in Clovis.

“I have different goals,” Christina said. “My main goal is to make it on TV. I’ll be happy with that.”

Thursday will include two live broadcasts: semifinals from 8-11 a.m. on ESPN, and the final round from 6-8 p.m. on ABC.