Noth­ing pusil­lan­i­mous in Lucy’s big bee win

The Dominion Post - - News - OLIVER LEWIS

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.

PHOTO: CAMERON BURNELL/STUFF

St Mar­garet’s Col­lege stu­dent Lucy Jessep on stage at Te Papa for the New Zealand Spell­ing Bee com­pe­ti­tion.

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