By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer
Sheila Zampella had her arms full as she held the Webster’s International Dictionary her daughter, Richelle Zampella, received after winning the 2012 Eastern Oklahoma State Spelling Bee.
“That would take up a whole room if we put it in Braille,” said Cindy Lumpkin, spelling bee coordinator at Oklahoma School for the Blind. Richelle, a fifth-grader at OSB, reads only in Braille, she said.
Richelle survived 16 rounds — a total of 195 spelling words — before winning the 2012 bee Friday night by correctly spelling “stollen,” a German bread containing yeast and nuts.
Richelle now advances to the National Spelling Bee to be held Memorial Day weekend in Washington D.C. Richelle said she’s not nervous about going to the national bee, where she could face 277 spellers.
“I’ll just study hard,” the Muskogee resident said. “I really look forward to going.”
Nicholas Stark, the 2011 Spelling Bee winner, took second after struggling to spell “pasteurize.”
A Howe Elementary School sixth-grader, Nicholas got past “P-A-S-T” when he took a breath and uttered the incorrect letter, “U.”
Nicholas said he knew how to spell the word, but thought there were two ways to spell it.
“I think I know there is a version without the ‘E’,” he said. “So I just went with the version without the ‘E.’”
There is not an alternate spelling of “pasteurize.”
Nicholas had some words of advice for Richelle.
“Expect hard words, a fun time and a new experience,” Nicholas said. “I didn’t make it that far, but it was awesome to be there.”
The bee drew nearly 100 students from 50 schools across eastern Oklahoma. Richelle and Nicholas lasted through six rounds of competition before facing each other one-to-one. The two correctly spelled one word after another through nearly nine more rounds.
Lumpkin, who escorted Richelle to the microphone each time she spelled, hugged her after a night of perfect spelling.
“She’s very smart and studies all the time,” Lumpkin said. “She learned all these words in Braille. She’s fast at it. She not only has to scan it, she has to feel the letters.”
Richelle said she studies a lot.
“But I learn a lot,” Richelle said. “There are a few hard words, but I learn quickly.”
Sheila Zampella said her daughter “is very determined to do her best in everything she does.”
“I am just so proud of her,” said Richelle’s father Joseph Zampella.
Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or email@example.com