From left, the top three placers in the Rio Rancho Public Schools Spanish-language spelling bee March 10 were Lisbeth Guzman Oliva, third place; Claudia Mendoza, second place; and Camila Delgado-Zesati, first place. Courtesy photo.

A St. Thomas Aquinas School fifth-grader will represent Rio Rancho and Sandoval County in state competition later this year, after triumphing at the 19th Rio Rancho Concurso de Deletreo en Español, (Spanish-language Spelling Bee) March 10 at Joe Harris Elementary School.

Camila Delgado-Zesati outlasted 16 other spellers, ultimately fending off two tough Puesta del Sol Elementary fourth-graders, Claudia Mendoza and Lisbeth Guzman Oliva, to take home the title.

Guzman Oliva fell out of the competition in the fifth round, cementing a top-three finish and leaving the stage to Mendoza and Delgado-Zesati. During the sixth and seventh rounds, both spellers had a chance to win, but misspelled their championship words.

Finally, in the eighth round, Mendoza was stumped by the word helicóptero (meaning, of course, helicopter). Delgado-Zesati then spelled the word correctly and aced her championship word, estampado (printed or printing) to win the competition.

Delgado-Zesati will move on to the New Mexico Association of Bilingual Educators Spanish Spelling Bee later this year.

The Spanish Spelling Bee is similar to the annual Rio Rancho/Sandoval County English-language Spelling Bee.

Students spell Spanish words using the Spanish alphabet, pronunciation and characters. For example, students must include the accent when spelling the word adiós and the “ñ” in spelling mañana, increasing the degree of difficulty.

This year’s Spanish Spelling Bee closes a circle that began two years ago, when the bee was the last major Rio Rancho Public Schools event before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered schools. The 2020 bee was held the day before the state’s health order closing schools went into effect.