An eighth grader from Hopwood Junior High School emerged as the Public School System's best speller after correctly spelling the word “quixotic” in the First Spelling Competition held Saturday at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center.
Fourteen-year-old Ezekiel Rafanan, who appeared calm and confident from the start, bested 31 other contenders from public schools and will be the top representative of the islands at the upcoming Scripps Spelling Bee in Guam.
Rafanan, the son of Reynaldo and Arlene Rafanan, is his school's No. 1 speller during a school-level competition in December.
In an interview after Saturday's contest, Rafanan disclosed that this year will be his fourth time to join the Guam's spelling bee. He started competing in fifth grade and his best showing so far at the Guam competition was landing in the Top 4 when he was in sixth grade. In another year, he placed eighth in the same competition.
This year, Rafanan is aiming for the top spot so he could represent the region in the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. He promised to do his best to represent the CNMI in the Guam contest.
Previously, participation of CNMI schools in the Guam Scripps Spelling Bee was based on the decision of individual schools. PSS this year launched the statewide spelling bee to officially select the system's representative to the contest.
Other top winners of the statewide competition will go with Rafanan to the Guam spelling bee. They are second placer Michelle Bermudes from William S. Reyes Elementary School and third placer Jenikah Elayda, also from WSR; Hopwood's Arianne Reyes, fourth placer; and Samantha Sandbergen from Tinian Elementary, fifth placer. Serving as alternates for the group are Elayda and Reyes.
For Bermudes, Saturday's competition was not only a great experience but the opening of a big opportunity. Like fellow winners, the fifth grader aims to be in the national competition. Michelle, the daughter of Raymond and Nancy Bermudes, has been joining the Guam spelling bee since last year where she won Top 8 in the overall regional competition.
The 41st Annual Scripps Regional Spelling Bee competition is set on March 9 at the Sheraton Guam Resort.
According to Lynnette Villagomez, spelling bee committee chairperson, there were a total of 32 contenders from 16 public schools during Saturday's event. The participants-students from third to 8th grades-represent the top spellers of individual schools.
Villagomez disclosed that the committee used more than 400 words during the entire competition Saturday.
The committee members and judges were Bobby Cruz, Jonathan Cabrera, and Lorraine Catienza. The event's pronouncer was Bob Coldeen.