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2019 New Zealand Spelling Bee champion crowned

Year 10 student Sarah Wong has triumphed over hundreds of students from more than 100 schools to win the title of New Zealand Spelling Bee champion 2019.

Eighteen of New Zealand’s top spellers battled it out for the coveted title of 2019 New Zealand Spelling Bee champion at the event’s tension-filled national final at the City Art Gallery in Wellington.

Sarah, of Diocesan School for Girls in Auckland, takes away the spelling bee trophy and $5000 towards her academic pursuits, in addition to the coveted title of New Zealand Spelling Bee champion.

Sarah, who has a black belt in Shotokan karate, correctly spelled the word ‘stalactite’ to take out the title. She was also a finalist in the 2018 New Zealand Spelling Bee final.

She says she was “pretty surprised” to win and wasn’t sure how she was going to get the large trophy home to Auckland on the plane.

Runner-up was Year 10 student Michael Yao from Auckland Grammar School who went out on the word ‘aberrant’. He won $2000 towards his academic pursuits.

Third equal was Year 10 student Josephine Holden from St Cuthbert’s College in Auckland on the word ‘equerry’, and Megan Lake from Otumoetai College in Tauranga on the word ‘irascibility’. Both girls won $500 towards their academic pursuits.

The competition ran over 11 nail-biting rounds, with the largest live audience in the 15-year history of the event.

New Zealand Spelling Bee founder Janet Lucas says she was “thrilled” with the high standard of competition this year.

“It’s a really tough event. Sarah qualified for the final last year and drew on that experience to get her to the end this year. She was the first speller, which meant she started first for every round. Number one was definitely her lucky number today.”

The finalists won their places out of a field of hundreds of Year 9 and 10 students from more than 100 secondary schools and colleges around New Zealand.

The rigorous competition began at the start of the year with a written classroom test, followed by six regional semi-finals in which the top 200 spellers competed for a place in the final.

Now in its 15th year, the New Zealand Spelling Bee, supported by the Wright Family Foundation, is a competitive spelling event aimed at encouraging Year 1-10 students to gain a love of the English language. The programme improves spelling, comprehension and communication skills.

In addition to the National Spelling Bee for Year 9-10 students, the New Zealand Spelling Bee offers a Classroom Spelling Bee for Years 1-8.

The New Zealand Spelling Bee has grown significantly since 2014, when the Wright Family Foundation came on board as the programme’s sole sponsor, allowing it to expand into primary and intermediate schools. About 800 primary and intermediate schools now sign up for the classroom programme every year.

Wright Family Foundation chief executive Chloe Wright says the vision of the Foundation is to create articulate readers and writers who go on to higher education with confidence.

“The event has the goal of expanding children’s vocabulary and encouraging a love of language – which is something we are passionate about fostering,” she says.

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