Date: 31st October 2017
Pusillanimous – meaning a lack of courage or determination – was nowhere to be seen when Lucy Jessep won the New Zealand Spelling Bee after correctly spelling that very word.
The competition is contested by Year 9 and 10 students from all over New Zealand. The first round of the competition was a written test, followed by regional semi-finals that were held throughout the country. 200 hopefuls competed for one of the 21 places in the grand final that was held in Wellington over the weekend.
Lucy is currently in Year 10 at St Margaret’s College. Her favourite subjects, unsurprisingly, are English and Spanish; she loves language, linguistics and expanding her knowledge of vocabulary through reading and thinks this is what helped her in the harder rounds of the Spelling Bee. “In the later rounds, they’re really testing your knowledge of word origins and the extent of your vocabulary. Even if you haven’t heard a word before if you understand the origin it helps you to work out the word structure and how the letters might go together.” Leading up to the competition, Lucy spent her spare time practicing, reading extensively and always made sure she had her 200-long word list in her pocket, “I could pull it out whenever I had a spare few minutes and ask a friend to test me on some words!”
Looking forward, Lucy is considering a career in linguistics and is keen to coach the new year 9 and 10 girls for next year’s competition, “a lot of it is about keeping calm under pressure and not over thinking it when you’re on the stage”, she says. She also has the task of deciding how she’ll spend $5000 in prize money – at this stage she has her eye on an overseas school trip or a possible exchange trip with her Spanish class.
And yes, she has a favourite word; ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ – Lucy recalls how, when she was little, her granddad would challenge her to say it as fast as she could. She now of course, not only has no problem saying it, but can spell it almost without thinking!
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