Local speller eyes spot on TV

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

Lucas Donaldson is traveling more than 1,500 miles to spell words most people can’t pronounce.

The Zia Elementary student, who begins sixth grade in the fall, will compete in the 79th Scripps National Spelling Bee beginning today in Washington, D.C.

Donaldson said he would be studying late Tuesday in preparation for today’s first round.

“I think I can handle most of the words,” Donaldson said. “Hopefully, at least half of the words I’ll have already studied.”

He said his goal is to make the fifth round. “I’d like to be on TV.”

ABC is carrying the final round live Thursday in prime time.

Donaldson won the Zia Elementary bee and correctly spelled “prerequisite” to triumph over 34 area spellers during the Regional Spelling Bee on March 11 at Clovis Community College.

Zia Elementary School principal Jarilyn Butler said she is excited Donaldson will be representing the Curry County area. Butler said the young speller is bright and extremely motivated.

“He excels in whatever he puts his mind to,” Butler said.

According to Butler, the entire Donaldson family was planning to travel to Washington, D.C., to watch Lucas compete.

“He (Lucas) was surprised and nervous to be competing in Washington,” Butler said.

Donaldson is one of 275 spellers competing this year. The competitors are comprised of 139 boys and 136 girls ages 9 through 15, according to the official Scripps Web site.

During the spelling competition, Donaldson will be asked to spell words that range from simple, such as “academic,” to more obscure words, such as “somatotonic” — which means a pattern of temperament marked by predominance of physical over social or intellectual factors, a love of physical activity.

The judges will provide a definition and use the word in a sentence if requested.

Last year’s champion spelled “appoggiatura” to win the competition.

Donaldson spent the last few days sightseeing and participating in spelling-bee sponsored activities.

“It’s been really cool,” said Donaldson, who was particularly impressed with the Washington and Lincoln monuments. “The Washington Monument is so tall and the Lincoln Monument has so much history.”

All times MDT
• Today — Preliminary championship round, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., ESPN.
• Thursday — Championship round, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., ABC