Astrid Arellano and Giselle Ramirez spelled down about 80 fellow elementary school students Wednesday to finish first and second, respectively, in the Merced County Spelling Bee at the Atwater Community Center.
Astrid, who turns 12 on Friday, is a sixth-grader at Harmony Elementary School in Delhi. She spelled "ostracize" correctly and will advance to the state championship April 20 at the San Joaquin County Office of Education in Stockton.
"I feel really proud of myself," Astrid said. "If I study a lot, it is easy if I put my mind to it."
Several other words the fourth- through sixth-graders from 40 elementary schools in the county went through included "ailment," "mathematician" and "ooze," said Osvaldo DeLuna, a coordinator for the sponsoring Merced County Office of Education.
Giselle, the runner-up who will advance to the state championships in Stockton, said she began preparing for Wednesday's bee in the middle of October after winning a spelling bee at her school, R.M. Miano Elementary School, in Los Banos.
"I feel very happy and proud of myself," Giselle said. "The hard work paid off."
Other words Giselle spelled correctly included "omission," "rehearsal," "persistent" and "Illinois." This was her first competition at the county level.
Giselle's mother, Maria Ramirez, said her daughter comes home from school and goes straight to the books. She said Giselle has a photographic memory and wants to attend Harvard, Stanford or Yale.
"She's very smart and a special girl," Ramirez said. "I am so proud of her. I knew she could do it."
Nishika Judge, a 10-year-old Miano Elementary fifth-grader, will serve as the alternate.
Words and definitions are given to students before they put their spelling skill into action. The word list is provided by the San Joaquin County Office of Education.