Newark sixth-grader wins Delaware Spelling Bee

05dsn Spelling Bee All by .

Sixty-six students from across the state competed in the 2016 Delaware Spelling Bee at St. Mark’s High School in Wilmington on Saturday. The Bee determines Delaware’s representative in the National Bee held in May in Washington, D.C. (Delaware State News/Ashton Brown)

WILMINGTON –– After 15 rounds of competition Saturday, sixth-grader Raphael Kim of Newark Charter School emerged as the winner of the 2016 Delaware Spelling Bee by correctly spelling “manifesto.”

Sixty-six students from across the state competed at St. Mark’s High School –– each earning their spot in the bee after winning their school’s spelling bee.

Most schools had their bees weeks ago but Newark Charter held its bee less than two weeks ago.

“It was hard because we really only had about a week to get ready,” Raphael said. “It was a lot to study, but my parents and cousin helped me.”

05dsn Spelling Bee Winners by .

After 15 rounds of spelling Saturday at St. Mark’s High School, the top three spellers emerged. From left to right are runner-up Keo Pangan of Immaculate Heart of Mary School, champion Raphael Kim of Newark Charter and third-place winner Jeremiah Rayban of North Star Elementary. Ms. Kim will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington DC the week of May 22.

But it was Ms. Kim’s second time at the spelling bee so she’s no newbie to the spelling game.

“When she was in fourth grade she got 10th place at the state competition and she didn’t win her school last year, so we just came today hoping she would do better than 10th,” said Raphael’s father Jung-Il Kim.

“I’m really happy that I won,” Raphael said holding onto her first place trophy. “I really love reading and learning new words.”

Her parents attribute her large vocabulary and interest in words to her love of books and her goal of eventually writing a book of her own.

Although she’s only in sixth grade, 2016 is Raphael’s last year competing in the state bee. The typical cutoff is eighth grade but at Newark Charter, only fourth, fifth and sixth graders compete in the school bee.

“Even though I’d like to do it next year, I can’t. But I’m excited for the national bee,” she said.

And she wasn’t the only finalist walking off the St. Mark’s stage for the last time –– 2016 runner-up and 2015 champion Keo Pangan of Immaculate Heart of Mary School will not be eligible after this school year.

“It’s OK that I didn’t win this time, I was just happy I won my school and could come back this year,” he said.

He estimated he studied about an hour a day in the preceding weeks of the competition using the Scripps study guide.

But by the final round, where Keo spelled “lingonberry” correctly to earn second place, the students were spelling words not included in the guide.

The study guide had 300 words, but after round 11, it became clear that the remaining six spellers had impressively memorized each of the given words so the judges moved on to a new list provided by Scripps.

It was only then that the final group began to thin out until there were three spellers left.

The youngest of the final three, 10-year-old Jeremiah Rayban of North Star Elementary, earned his third place trophy after misspelling “commodore” in the same round Keo correctly spelled “lingonberry.”

“I studied everyday and I’ll keep studying so I can be back next year,” Jeremiah said.

As a 10-year-old, Jeremiah will have three more chances to vie for the state title.

And studying to make it back to the finals isn’t a chore for him because it’s a family effort and he loves the knowledge that comes with studying.

“My family helps me study and I really like that I get to learn about different languages by learning new words,” he said. “It makes it fun.”

As Keo puts his dictionary on the shelf and Jeremiah slows down the studying, Raphael will be preparing for the Scripps National Spelling Bee which will be held in Washington, D.C. the week of May 22.

She will compete against the country’s best spellers, all of whom rose above the 11 million American children who competed in a Scripps spelling bee this school year.

“I’m not nervous yet because I don’t really know what to expect at the national bee, but I’ll be studying until I leave,” Raphael said.

05dsn Spelling Bee Kent County Kids by .

Kent and Sussex counties had 22 spellers in the Delaware Spelling Bee held at St. Mark’s High School in Wilmington. Photographed from left to right in the front row are: Jon Justice, 13 of Smyrna Middle School; Kyle Wright, 10 of Towne Pointe Elementary; Kayla Peffley, 10 of Lulu M. Ross Elementary; Anthia D’Anna, 12 of Beacon Middle; Celine Jeun, 14 of W.T. Chipman Middle; Ramon Manjon, 11 of Holy Cross; (second row) Liam Wood, 9 of North Dover Elementary; Janya Currie , 10 of Richard A. Shields Elementary; Laura Therese Dizon, 11 of William Henry Middle; Judy Johnson, 9 of Lake Forest Central Elementary; Jordyn Tucker, 9 of South Dover Elementary; Khang Nguyen, 9 of Booker T. Elementary; (third row) DenNare Horsey 10 of Mispillion Middle; Nicki Beck, 11 of Georgetown Elementary; Jaliyah Williams, 12 of Talley Middle School; Donovan Clark, 10 of John Bassett Moore Middle; Dakota Donaghue, 10 of North Smyrna Elementary; Summer Davis, 13 of Milford Central Academy; Maanvi Sarwadi, 10 of Caravel Academy; (top row) Cate Marshall, 9 of Benjamin Banneker Elementary; Noa Aboutboul, 11 of Rehoboth Elementary; and Elizabeth Seeney, 9 of Hartly Elementary.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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