Modesto boy can’t solve ‘quandary,’ places 2nd at state spelling bee

naustin@modbee.comMay 1, 2014 

    alternate textNan Austin
    Title: Education reporter
    Coverage areas: K-12 education, Yosemite Community College District
    Bio: Nan Austin has been a copy editor and reporter at The Modesto Bee for 24 years. She has an economics degree from CSU Stanislaus and previously worked at the Merced Sun-Star and Turlock Journal.
    Recent stories written by Nan
    On Twitter: @nanaustin

In front of an audience of hundreds, 9-year-old Michael Balerite of Modesto persevered through nine rounds of the California State Elementary Spelling Bee.

“Lieutenant.” Aced it.

“Bourgeois.” Tough, but he nailed it.

“Megalomaniac.” Done.

By the time he hit “quandary,” the fourth-grader from Aspire University Charter and a sixth-grader from Fremont were the only ones left on the stage, said mom Marilou Balerite.

But quandary, true to its word, left him struggling. Then Christina Yu, 12, successfully spelled “hyperbole,” proclaiming her the very best young speller in California for 2014.

Michael and Christina were among 56 fourth- through sixth-grade champions from 28 counties to compete at the San Joaquin County Office of Education in Stockton on April 26. More than 300 people gathered to watch the nail-biter of a competition.

Also competing were sixth-graders Martin Shewfelt from Agnes Baptist Elementary in Modesto and Patrick Caldwell from Ripon Elementary. Merced County sent sixth-grader Carlos Magana and fifth-grader Jasmine Judge.

The state contest, sponsored by Grand Canyon University, sent all participants home with an iPod shuffle in a spelling bee backpack. Christina earned an iPad. Michael and six other top finalists received trophies.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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