NEWS

Success: Can I have the definition?

[attach]4502[/attach]Without reading this sentence, could you spell panguinge, huipil or mycetophagous?

Laura Newcombe can, and she’s only 12. Then again, she’s also the three-time Canadian spelling champion and this year’s runnerup at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in the U.S.

The grade 8 Deer Park Public School student reflected on her time as a national spelling champ just after coming back from a school trip to New York, and before heading out on a family trip to Paris. After finishing 17th in her first Scripps bee, then progressing to fifth place last year, Newcombe said she was excited and hopeful about her third trip to Washington D.C. in as many years.

“I just wanted to go back to the Scripps and the Canspell bee too, and meet people and enjoy myself,” she said. “During the competition I was a little bit nervous because you never know what word you’re going to get, and (I was) excited.”

Shortly after a thrilling five straight rounds of all competitors correctly spelling each word, three faltered. That left Newcombe and one other girl heading to the championship round. It was the word “sorites” that tripped Newcombe up. Her opponent went on to win the Scripps bee back on June 2. But Newcombe says she isn’t dismayed by her result.

“I still wish I would have won because everyone wants to win,” she said. “But second place in the Scripps is a really good thing.”

She remains very happy with her result, as do her proud parents, pharmacist Zeuming Wong and Dalton Newcombe, whom Laura described as an “electronic-engineer-thing.”

Despite those feelings of elation, Newcombe said she also feels relieved that the competition is over. But at the same time, it leaves a bit of a void.

“(I’m) a bit sad because I made friends (at the bee),” she said. “And a bit more sad because this is my last year for competition and I’m not going to be doing any more spelling after this year.”

Newcombe is looking forward to starting her grade 9 year at North Toronto in the fall — a year earlier than most people her age, as she skipped senior kindergarten. While she says that she still wonders what she missed in that year, she does know what she’ll be doing in September.

“I know what courses I’m taking next year, but beyond that — mystery!” she said before admitting that she’ll be avoiding certain types of classes. “I do not want to dissect things.”

Regardless of her choices, Deer Park principal Michael Howlett says Newcombe, who was honoured as student of the month in June, remains a great example for students at the elementary school of just under 500 students.

“I think it’s tremendously rewarding for the school, her classmates, her teacher, her parents and herself, obviously,” he said. “She’s very deserving, she’s incredibly committed to doing well and I think it’s a great example for our students that, if you put your mind to something and prepare to put the time and effort into it, you can accomplish basically anything you set your mind to.”

Newcombe herself has similar advice for students who plan on trying their tongues at spelling.

“Just keep trying,” she says. “Yes, that’s said a lot, but it works.”