Fifth-graders earn trips to state finals with top 2 finishes at Douglas County Spelling Bee

Raintree Montessori School student Zoe Cachiguango-Latta won the Douglas County Spelling Bee by correctly spelling the word repugnant on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 at Southwest Middle School.

Jitters turned to smiles Saturday after two Lawrence fifth-graders took home the first- and second-place certificates at the 2018 Douglas County Spelling Bee.

The pair will now head to the state finals March 10 in Topeka.

The bee started with 25 elementary and middle school students vying at the Southwest Middle School auditorium for the top two spots. The contest for first place ended when Raintree Montessori School fifth-grader Zoe Cachiguango-Latta correctly spelled “repugnance.” She was the only one of four surviving contestants to correctly spell a word in the seventh round of the bee.

With Zoe’s victory, the three contestants who misspelled words in the seventh round were called back on the stage. Sunset Hill Elementary fifth-grader Elinor Russo then claimed the runner-up spot in the eighth-round spell-off by correctly spelling “crampon.”

It was the second county bee for Zoe and Elinor, who were schoolmates at Sunset Hill before Zoe transferred to Raintree at the end of her second-grade year. Despite her past experience at the bee, Zoe said she was nervous the first time she stepped to the microphone Saturday.

“It was a little nerve-wracking when I had to spell my first word, but then it was OK,” she said.

It was apparently self-confidence and not long evenings of studying the spelling bee word list that steadied Zoe’s nerves.

“Actually, I haven’t studied that hard,” she said.

Zoe’s mother, Kristine Cachiguango-Latta, said her daughter studied the list diligently before the contest at Raintree and then took it easy.

Elinor likewise eased up on studying before the final contest, she said. Both girls vowed to study hard before next month’s state contest in Topeka. As fifth-graders they are eligible to compete in the county bee three more years, and both Zoe and Elinor said they planned to return next year to the bee, which is sponsored by the Lawrence Journal-World.