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Margarita Wilson says she saw the Postmedia Canspell National Spelling Bee as a chance to travel and improve her literary skills.
David Mayry, 13, a Grade 8 student from Holy Angels Separate Catholic School in Schreiber, participates in the Postmedia Canspell National Spelling Bee in Thunder Bay Saturday. (Jeff Labine,
Margarita Wilson says she saw the Postmedia Canspell National Spelling Bee as a chance to travel and improve her literary skills.

The 12-year-old Grade 7 student from Nor’Wster View Public School competed against 35 other students at the regional school finals for Thunder Bay and its region. The competition started at 1:30 p.m. at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium on Sunday.

The contestants from Grades 4 to 8 battled out until only seven remained. Several minutes later, Margarita faced off against 11-year-old Ashtyn Skabar from Whitefish Valley Public School in Kakabeka Falls. Ashtyn slipped up on spectacles, which meant that Margarita needed to spell only two more words correctly to claim her prize.

She spelled her first word correctly but then when the speaker asked her to spell parabolic for the championship, she said that was the most difficult word in the whole competition.

While difficult to spell, it wasn’t enough to stump Margarita who took first place in the competition.

"It was scary but at the same time extremely cool," Margarita said. "I love travelling and I thought this would be really fun and a great way to learn. The spelling bee allows you to be a better writer, a better reader and it sort of ties the whole literacy thing together."

Margarita received the wordlist three weeks ago. She spent a few hours a day memorising the list and understanding the origins of the words.

She said it wasn’t that hard.

Margarita will fly to Toronto for the Canspell National Finals near the end of March. Margarita said she was excited for the next step in her journey.

She added she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up.

Harold Wilson, his wife, Lena and two other daughters, three-year-old Katya and 10-year-old Sasha rushed to the stage when Margarita spelled her final word correctly. The family embraced and congratulated Margarita on her success.

Wilson said Margarita’s experience last year in the competition helped make her less nervous.

"She knew what to expect," Wilson said. "She was also taking it in stride. The first thing she did this morning was to put on music and start dancing. She figured that was better for her instead of studying."

But while Margarita took first place, some of the competitors looked forward to try and claim the top prize for themselves next year.

Taylor Dalzell, 14, a Grade 8 student from Crolancla Public School in Pickle Lake, misspelled tutor in the first round of the competition. He and his family drove the six hours to Thunder Bay on Friday and spent Saturday shopping before the competition on Sunday.

Taylor studied every day for the competition, but when he went up to the mic on stage, his nerves on the better of him, he said.

"I was pretty nervous because of all the people," Taylor said. "I felt like I should have known the word. I guess I was just a bit nervous so I blurted it out. I was sounding it out (in my head) but I just rushed it."

He said he would look at his loss as a learning experience and would come back next year to try again.

Collene Ferguson, national co-ordinator for Postmedia Canspell, said the level of competition this year was quite high. If a contestant didn’t know the word, they would ask what the origin of the word was to try and figure out how to spell it, she said.

But there are some words that are spelled differently such as colour without the ‘u’ and realize with an ‘s’.

Ferguson said if a contestant were to spell colour without the ‘u’ it would still be considered correct. But when the winner of the Canspell National Finals competes in Washington, D.C. they will have to spell all their words one way, she said.

Ferguson said they use two dictionaries for the competition, the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.

"This is a really nice opportunity for kids that are academically inclined to compete," Ferguson said. "It’s fun to challenge yourself. This gives them the chance to use that intellectual part of their lives and do something really challenging and exciting." 

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