Lucy Worthen

Another bee is in the books, and with it, Rio Rancho Public Schools’ newest school, Joe Harris Elementary, has its first spelling bee champion.

Fifth grader Lucy Worthen, daughter of Chad and Darbie Worthen, said she probably only spent “like two” hours practicing for the Friday morning bee, and then however much time it took to drive to the RRPS district offices’ boardroom, where the bee was held in person for the first time since 2020.

Lucy’s practice partner was her sister Carly, an Eagle Ridge Middle School eighth grader and bee competitor, later ousted on “marionette” in the fourth round.

Other than admitting she had a little bit of trouble with “symmetrical,” in order she nailed “Pinkerton,” “fervently,” “brusk,” “assemblage.”

Lucy went to the final round with two other spellers, Rio Rancho Middle School eighth grader Lucia Peña and Sandoval Academy Bilingual Education sixth grader Sophie Otero.

In the final-three showdown, Lucia got “manuscript” and Sophie had “convection,” sandwiched around Lucy spelling “assemblage.” But Lucia missed “quittance” and Sophie couldn’t get “ricochet,” leaving Lucy alone after she spelled “subsequent.”

That’s when it all hinged on correctly putting two M’s in “symmetrical” to emerge as the champ.

The bee began with the 39 best spellers in RRPS, plus SABE, Bernalillo Elementary, Placitas Elementary, Santo Domingo Elementary and St. Thomas Aquinas School wordsmiths in the field.

Eleven were eliminated in the second round – the first round was a practice round, with zero eliminations. Eleven more said goodbye in the third round, including 2021 champ Esha Shivashankar (tubular). Nine went out in the fourth round.

Five of the remaining eight lost their hopes of being the champ, including 2022 winner, Ian Zeter (krypton).

Getting their words correct to be among the final five were Elena Dang, a fifth grader at Thomas Aquinas (divestiture) and Ian Zeter, who placed third at the state bee last year. (Yorkshire).

That left three to vie for the title, and the five just eliminated from the championship had a spell-off to eliminate a few more, as RRPS was eligible to send five qualifiers to the state bee in a few months.

“Kudos to the students themselves for all the hard work they put it,” RRPS Superintendent Sue Cleveland said after the two-hour bee concluded.