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Girl shrugs off fatigue and huge words to claim state Spelling Bee title

Angelina Holm didn’t let fatigue, 280 of her peers and the proper spelling of helminthiasis stop her from claiming the crown as the Colorado’s top young speller Saturday at the University of Denver’s Sturm Hall.

Eleven-year-old Angelina plowed through words like smithy, hierarchy and perforation in the finals of the 78th Annual Denver Post Colorado State Spelling Bee to earn a one-on-one face-off against fellow sixth-grader Benjamin Holland by late afternoon.

She and Benjamin tripped over several long and complicated words before finally Angelina won by first correctly spelling sphalerite  — the chief ore of zinc  — and then correctly nailing helminthiasis  — an infestation of parasitic worms  — for the championship.

This after more than four hours of competition under the hot lights at Sturm.

“I was tired but I decided to plow ahead,” said Angelina, a student at Denver School of the Arts. “I’m really happy.”

She will now advance  to compete for a $40,000 cash prize in the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee near Washington D.C. in May.

Over the 78-year history of Colorado students competing in the National Bee, a student from the state has won the coveted national title seven times: 1957, 1959, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1989, and 2002, said Carol Cline, Colorado State Spelling Bee event director.

This year’s Bee included more than 280 2nd to 8th-grade students. They all qualified in local, district and county spelling bees, Cline said. On Saturday morning, they took part in written spelling and vocabulary tests to determine who advanced as finalists for the oral competition.

By Saturday afternoon, 28 students remained for the oral showdown, which was open to the public. Many were from public schools but private schools were also represented.

The poise and quick thinking of the finalists are always impressive, Cline said.

“Once the finalists start the oral portion of the day, we are amazed at the intellect and dedication we see and hear each time they step up to the microphone.”

Some finalists jittered in their seats before they took on words chosen by the Scripps Spelling Bee officials. Others appeared to be in a daze before they took to the microphone.

The students were allowed to ask for their word to be used in a sentence and its linguistic history, often Latin, German or English.

Angelina said she began working on her spelling when she was in first-grade and prepared, in part, for Saturday’s finals by drilling with flash cards with her mom. She also said it helps when she knows the origin of the word and how it’s used in sentence.

“I just try to break down where a word comes from and how it is used,” Angelina said.

Her mom, Vanessa Tran, said her daughter does not shy away from working hard on her spelling. “Everyday we drill and prepare as much as we can,” Tran said. “I am very proud of her.”

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