Nothing pusillanimous in Lucy’s big bee win
Christchurch schoolgirl Lucy Jessep is still buzzing after sweeping past other top wordsmiths to claim a national spelling bee crown.
The St Margaret’s College student clinched the New Zealand Spelling Bee title in Wellington on Saturday by correctly spelling the word pusillanimous in a tiebreaker round. The word means showing a lack of courage or determination.
Lucy said she was overwhelmed by the messages of support that flocked in following her win, which earned her $5000 in prize money towards her academic pursuits.
‘‘I’m still pretty excited about it, it was a pretty intense competition but I really enjoyed getting to meet people who, like me, really care about words and are really interested by words,’’ she said.
The 14-year-old year 10 student out-spelled 20 other year 9 and 10 students from around the country to take out the competition, which she prepared for by getting friends to test her on 200 pre-selected words.
‘‘I’m still pretty excited about it, it was a pretty intense competition but I really enjoyed getting to meet people who, like me, really care about words and are really interested by words.’’
‘‘Spelling really helps you discover a large vocabulary of words you can use, and that’s really important in learning how to communicate effectively,’’ she said.
Lucy attributed her success to an interest in etymology and a life-long passion for reading and writing, something her late grandfather, Laurence Cooney, helped instil.
When she was 3, he would challenge her to say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious – a word that remained her favourite even now.
Lucy also had a keen interest in languages and linguistics – her favourite subjects at St Margaret’s were Spanish and English, and she hoped one day to pursue a career in something like speech language therapy.
St Margaret’s head of middle school Kathryn Gray described Lucy as an ‘‘exceptional young woman’’ who took advantage of every opportunity that presented itself.
‘‘I’d like to take some credit but, no, that’s all Lucy,’’ she said of the spelling bee result.
‘‘She’s incredibly passionate about her learning, and she’s obviously got amazing potential.’’
Lucy said she hoped to use the $5000 prize money on a possible school trip to Europe, where she was particularly interested in seeing literary attractions like Shakespeare’s birthplace Stratford-upon-Avon.
She wanted to thank her friends, family and the Wright Family Foundation, which sponsored the spelling bee.
St Margaret’s College student Lucy Jessep on stage at Te Papa for the New Zealand Spelling Bee competition.