It took 11 rounds Friday to determine the newest Rio Rancho Public Schools spelling bee champion, when Mountain View Middle School’s Graciela Rodriguez emerged from an original field of 35 students to correctly spell “rhodium.”
This year’s bee, contested at Vista Grande Elementary, was the 26th in the district’s history and included, for the first time, spelling bee champions from The ASK Academy and Sandoval Academy of Bilingual Education. A crowd of about 100, mostly parents and siblings of the contestants and school principals, were on hand for the nearly three-hour spelldown.
After the first three rounds, each scored for correct answers, the field was whittled down to 23 with the most points. Five rounds later, the field was down to its “final four”: Graciela, Gabriella Butler (Rio Rancho Elementary), Laurynn McKee (MVMS) and Sathya Martin (Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary).
All four missed their words in the ninth round, earning a reprieve into the next round, when only Graciela spelled her word (“echinacea,” an herb thought to have medicinal qualities) correctly, and then claimed the title by nailing “rhodium,” an elemental metal.
The remaining trio misspelled their words in the next two rounds, but Sathya became the runner-up after getting “syllabus.” That left Gabriella and Laurynn battling for the position of alternate, if neither Graciela nor Sathya can make it to the state bee in Albuquerque in March.
No problem: Gabriella didn’t vegetate on her way to spelling “rutabaga,” while Lauryn erred on “sommelier,” a wine steward.
After congratulating the winners and then departing for a scheduled meeting in Santa Fe, RRPS Superintendent Sue Cleveland remarked, “The words were so challenging.”
Indeed, after Graciela emerged as the champion and the remaining three youngsters had trouble getting any words spelled correctly, the degree of difficulty was lessened a bit, from five-syllable words to three- and four-syllable words.
Rio Rancho Spelling Bee winners, 1995-2020
Year Name School
1995 Jeff Bennett Lincoln Middle School
1996 Ashley Clow Puesta del Sol Elementary
1997 Rebekka Jones Mountain View Middle School
1998 Graig Garman Lincoln Middle School
1999 Sarah Liberatore Lincoln Middle School
2000 Kristin Tafoya Mountain View Middle School
2001 Maggie Purtell Eagle Ridge Middle School
2002 Shiv Patel Lincoln Middle School
2003 Zephra Doerr Rio Rancho Mid-High
2004 Zita Fletcher St. Thomas Aquinas
2005 Matt Tafoya Mountain View Middle School
2006 Satyam Patel Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary
2007 Taylor DesChenes St. Thomas Aquinas
2008 Bryce Peever Eagle Ridge Middle School
2009 Logan Meredith Lincoln Middle School
2010 Benjamin Fogg Eagle Ridge Middle School
2011 Noah Baca St. Thomas Aquinas
2012 Holly Gallegos Mountain View Middle School
2013 Ayshia Valdez Enchanted Hills Elementary
2014 Nicole Olson Colinas del Norte Elementary
2015 Alvin Toby St. Thomas Aquinas
2016 Adrian De la Peña Enchanted Hills Elementary
2017 Adrian De la Peña Enchanted Hills Elementary
2018 Eliana Juarez Mountain View Middle School
2019 Eliana Juarez Mountain View Middle School
2020 Graciela Rodriguez Mountain View Middle School