A winner again: Granger 6th-grader wins 2nd spelling title
The Granger home-schooled sixth-grader captured her second South Bend Tribune Regional Spelling Bee championship Thursday night at Bethel College.
And judging by the slight grin that creased her face when announcer Gary Sieber gave her "the championship word" to spell for the win, the youngster knew she had her second local spelling title in three years locked up.
"Mine -- her," Margaret pronounced, asking for a definition and an origin of the German word before ripping the correct spelling letter-for-letter.
"I was really scared I was going to get a word I didn't know," Margaret said afterward, surrounded by her younger siblings and proud parents, Kate and Waylon Peterson.
"She'd seen that one ... it was on one of the study lists," Kate Peterson said of Margaret's championship word.
"She's also blessed with a great memory," mom added.
"I've gone over it many times," Margaret admitted.
Margaret was among 70 fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders from St. Joseph County, Elkhart and Goshen who competed in the Tribune's 17th annual Regional Spelling Bee.
Although a few kids fidgeted in their seats as Sieber introduced the spelling bee by reading the rules, most sat calmly appearing to mull words in their heads they had spent the past few months studying over and over.
Some missed words by one letter, such as the first speller of the evening who put an "e" at the end of "condor."
Others missed by several, like the speller who spelled "barrage" -- "b-a-r-o-s-a-u-g-e."
Then there were those who fielded words that seemingly came out of left field.
"I didn't know it," Andrea Garcia-Estrada, a fifth-grader from St. John The Evangelist in Goshen, said after she was dismissed over the word "keelhaul."
"They need really good luck," said Andrea's father, Mario Garcia.
"Like, the (speller) who got (the word) 'tamale.'"
What crossed Goshen Middle School sixth-grader Steven Worlds' mind
when he got the word "salmonella."
"That I was gonna lose it," he said.
Steven studied for the spelling bee "every night," said his mother,
"That's one we didn't practice," she said.
Even the winner had a word that threw her off.
"Zwinger," Margaret said. "I had no idea what that word was."
Kate Peterson attributed her daughter's uncanny knack for coming up
with correct spellings of words she'd never heard before to a
linguistics roots system Kate teaches her daughter in their
"She studies a great deal," Kate Peterson said. "She also learns the
origin of words. She can pick apart a word that way.
"She's also blessed with a good memory," Kate repeated.
Next up for Margaret -- a return trip to Washington, D.C., at the end
of May to compete against nearly 300 other kids from around the
country at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
The first time she went after winning The Tribune's regional
competition in 2010 as a fourth-grader, Margaret zipped through her
words unscathed during the verbal portion of the bee.
But, "The written test was extremely hard," Kate Peterson recalled.
Now, headed back to Washington, D.C. with the experience of one
national competition under her belt, Margaret has a better idea of
what to expect.
And she has her heart set on returning to at least one attraction.
"The Newseum," Margaret said of the museum dedicated to the history of
the nation's press.
"They have all the Pulitzer Prize photographs there, and every major
daily newspaper in the country.
"It's my favorite museum."
Staff writer Jeff Harrell: