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.
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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.