At 9:30 a.m. 85 middle-school students were lined up in their school’s library to take part in the annual spelling bee that would determine who goes on to the next level of spelling bees, regional competition in Clovis.
One hour later after words such as “schedule”, “frolicsome”, “gourmet” “inventory”, “opposite” and “vacuum”, there were still twenty competitors left.
Among those was remaining was last year’s Tucumcari Spelling Bee Champion, Michael Martinez, who spelled so well at that competition and succeeding ones, that he made it to the rarefied position of competing in the televised national championships of spelling in Washington, D.C.
When he competed in 2003, he was only a seventh grader so as an eighth grader this year, he was again eligible to take part.
After his trip to Washington to compete, Martinez was determined to make it again and have another shot at it. But first he had to make it past 84 other wannabe champions. Then 20, then ten. Finally it was only Martinez and one other speller trying to spell one another down.
The other young person was a rookie at the spelling game. It was sixth grader Tyler Spinks. Martinez felt his experience of the year before and his practice of five or six times going over all the words with his family should give him the edge, but he wasn’t certain. The vagaries of pronunciation or a simple slip of the tongue could bring his road back to Washington to an end.
Then he heard Spinks begin spelling the next word “Gout,” which was, according to spelling bee pronouncer Judy Hiner, “a disease of the joints brought on by rich food.”
Martinez heard Spinks spell each of the letters of the word correctly,
“G-O-U-T”. Then Martinez heard him add an “E”. And he was certain that was wrong. He saw each judges shake her head towards Spinks.
Then it was Martinez’s turn to spell Gout. If he spelled it wrong Spinks was back in the hunt. But he didn’t. The eighth-grade speller had one more word to face. Hiner pronounced “Peaceable”. It was the last chance for Spinks to get back in the contest if Martinez misspelled the word.
However Martinez was not about to slip up at that point in the contest. He asked Hiner to define the word and use it in a sentence to make certain it dealt with not being war-like rather than the type of “piece” that meant a portion of something.
When Martinez finished spelling he was the Tucumcari Spelling Bee Champion for the second consecutive year.
“I’m so proud of him,” said spelling bee director and Language Arts instructor Patti Bell.
For Martinez’s part he is very happy he made it this far in the competition.
“I really want to go back to Washington,” said Martinez about being knocked out of the national spelling competition in the second round on a word he felt he should have gotten — “borborygmus.” Borborygmus is defined as “an intestinal rumbling of the bowels.”
Judges for the competition were Jolly Chavez, Yolanda Aragon and Debra Mitchell.