Elmont spelling bee scholar advances to L.I. regionals


Elmont Memorial High School eighth grader Annemiriam Alexis carefully spelled ‘coccidiosis’ during the school’s first-ever Scripps Spelling Bee contest in January.

Alexis described that word — which means a disease of birds and mammals that chiefly affects the intestines — as the most challenging she was tasked with spelling, helping her to earn the title as the school’s spelling bee champion.

She will now advance to the Long Island regionals on March 21 at Half Hollow Hills East High School in Dix Hills. The top three performers there will be invited to the National Scripps Spelling Bee Competition, held in Washington D.C. from May 28-30.

Alexis never doubted herself as she progressed through the written portion of the contest in November, emerging victorious along with 14 other students out of the 221 eighth graders at the school. She received a perfect score on the written part, where students were tested on 20 words.

“I knew that I advanced because I was so positive in the cafeteria that I knew all of the words,” Alexis said. “And even the ones that people got tripped up on, I was able to advance. It’s a great opportunity.”

The written portion of the test was held in the school’s junior and senior cafeterias, one for seventh graders and the other for eighth graders. Twenty-four seventh-grade students, out of 253, advanced to the oral portion of the spelling bee.

Alexis credited her victory to vigorously applying herself for the written test and taking the oral exam at a slow pace.

“If I didn’t think it through, then I would be out,” Alexis said of her technique going through the oral portion of the spelling bee. “So, I think before I speak.”

To prepare for both portions of the contest, hosted at the school in January, Alexis studied 450 words from Scripps National Spelling Bee. She would record herself saying the words on her phone, and play them back to test her spelling skills — for two to three hours a day.

Since she couldn’t always have someone test her on the words at home, she said she improvised the studying technique for the contest. This marked the first time she has competed in a Scripps Spelling Bee, since spelling bees hosted at her elementary school, Alden Terrace School, were held on a voluntary basis.

The word Alexis spelled to win the spelling bee in January was “mainstay,” which is her favorite word and holds special significance for her when she spelt it out to win the spelling bee.

“It was exciting, but also very nerve-wracking,” Alexis said of participating in the spelling bee.

To help fuel her success, she visualized herself winning.

“Mainstay” was one of the 150 surprise words spelling bee facilitators could choose from to wrap up the competition, so Alexis didn’t study it beforehand. When she won, she felt relief.

“I knew that I did a good job, and that the stress could go away,” Alexis said.

Alexandra Martinez, the Elmont Memorial High School librarian, put together and facilitated the school’s first-ever spelling bee this year.

“We created a really special event for the kids, from beginning to end,” Martinez said.

Following the oral test, Alexis and the seventh-grade champion Evan Jimenez at Elmont Memorial High School took an online test from Scripps National Spelling Bee, evaluating their spelling and vocabulary skills. They were required to finish in the top 50 for Long Island students to advance to the March 21 regionals. Jimenez fell short of qualifying for the regional competition by one point.

Alexis was the only Elmont Memorial High School student to advance to the regional portion of the spelling bee. Until the March 21 competition, Alexis is using the same studying technique — though this time, she will study 4,000 words, she said.