A happy Eliza Cavender is pictured with her medal and ribbon at the conclusion of the MAIS State Spelling Bee.
State champion speller
If quizzed, could you spell mnemonic?
Or what about fraulein?
Or maybe jacamar?
Eliza Cavender did.
In fact, the fourth grader at Marshall Academy and daughter of Kevin and Stephanie Cavender spelled those and many more difficult words.
In the recent Mississippi Association of Independent Schools State Spelling Bee, she spelled across 65 rounds, starting with four rounds of beginning level words, eight rounds of intermediate and all remaining words advanced level.
“It was epic; I was a nervous wreck,” her mother said.
But not Eliza – she was as cool as a cucumber.
“I wasn’t nervous,” she said, “because I studied a lot.”
In the end, the judges ran out of words and Eliza and a girl from Washington School in Greenville were named co-champions of the state bee.
“I was hoping for schadenfreude or weissnichtwo,” Eliza said. “I thought those might be difference-makers for me. But the other girl was super-prepared, too.”
To say Eliza was well-prepared would be a vast understatement.
“She stayed up late every night studying and studied every free minute of every weekend and even during her Christmas holidays,” Stephanie said.
And Eliza said the studying included learning not just how it was spelled, but the derivative of the word and the definition.
“That way if the announcer didn’t call it out right, I could ask for the origin or the definition,” said Eliza, who won the district spelling bee in Oxford to qualify for state.
Plus, spellers can ask for alternate pronunciations.
She estimates she studied about 216 hours.
Her mom said she got her “weird spelling vibe” from her. Stephanie was the Marshall County Spelling Bee champion in 1987 as a seventh grader and participated in the Mid-South Spelling Bee in Memphis, Tenn.
“I sure do wish they would bring that (the county spelling bee) back,” Stephanie said.
She said her daughter’s goal is to someday participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. To do that, she needs an avenue like the county bee, in order to hopefully progress to the Mid-South Bee and the nationals.
“I think she should be able to follow that track if that is what she wants to strive to achieve,” Stephanie said.
She said she thought the January 19 state spelling bee was never going to end.
“I couldn’t sit up front (at the Clyde Muse Center on Hinds Community College’s Pearl campus),” Stephanie said. “I had to sit in the back.
“But unlike me, Eliza has nerves of steel.”
After running out of fourth-grade words, they used words for other age groups, all the way through eighth grade.
“What are they going to do? It’s never going to end,” said Stephanie, referring to her thoughts as the spelling bee kept going and going and going.
Then after about two and a half hours, with 28 participants, it was called a tie between the last two standing.
“I had just a few words I had my doubts about, but most of them I spelled really fast,” Eliza said.
“It was fun, spelling on stage. I like the competition, and I want to keep going back. I enjoy it.”
If quizzed, could you spell gourami?
What about rasgado?
Eliza Cavender did, and many more. And she’s only 10 years old.