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Spelling bee champ discusses her big night

By ERICA RODRIGUEZ
March 24, 2010 at 6:04 p.m.
Updated March 23, 2010 at 10:24 p.m.

Pauline Negrete

For first place, Negrete earned two trophies, a Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Samuel Louis Sugarman $100 Savings Bond, one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica Online and an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., to participate in the National Spelling Bee competition.

What does "douane" mean?

The word refers to a custom house; customs.

Source: Dictionary.com

EDNA - Pauline Negrete won the 21st Annual Regional County Spelling Bee on Tuesday by correctly spelling "douane."

Don't ask the 11-year-old what the word means, though. She can't tell you.

"I started looking up words that I wasn't sure how to pronounce," said the Edna Elementary fifth-grader about her last-minute study strategies.

Negrete beat out sixth-grader Kevin Chen of Calhoun County on Tuesday evening after more than 30 rounds. The spelling bee lasted about three hours.

Negrete spent her final moments on stage concentrating on the answers other competitors shared, she said.

"I was also thinking, 'Oh, I wonder how long this is going to take?' because it was hot up there," she said.

After placing fifth in last year's regional bee, Negrete returned this year and out-spelled 13 other competitors from all around the Crossroads.

She's no novice to spelling, though. Negrete has competed in spelling bees since she was in first grade, a passion that she says comes from a love of learning.

"I just love doing it because it's like a tradition to me," she said.

To prepare for Tuesday, Negrete studied a list of 1,150 words and often wrote each word five times or more.

"I try to study every hour or every minute I can," she said.

For now, she's relaxing before she begins to study the words for her next competition - the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

This time her study assignment isn't a list - it's a 2-inch binder. Even so, her strategy remains the same.

"'Study really hard because practices makes perfect.' That's what one of my teachers always told us," she said.

Negrete will go to Washington, D.C., in June. There, she hopes to visit museums and shake President Barack Obama's hand, she said.

Her parents, who've always encouraged her to read, plan to join her on the trip.

"We are very proud of her. She worked hard and now she's happy," said Negrete's mother, Maria Negrete.

Negrete is the first child in 30 years to represent Jackson County in the competition. John Scott did so in 1980, educators say.

"She is very driven and a very confident little girl," said Deborah Mayer, Negrete's principal. "She's an example of how hard work can pay off, and we use that to help motivate other students."

Hard work for Negrete will pay off in more immediate ways. Before heading to the national bee, Negrete's parents promised her a few rewards.

"For sure I am getting magazines and a Justin Bieber CD," she said.

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