After recently taking first place in the regional spelling bee, it's onto the state tournament for Frontier Elementary School fifth-grader Ben Paric.
The precocious Paric breezed through eight words before taking the event by calmly, coolly and correctly spelling the word "deuce." The other words he flawlessly spelled en route to the title were "unnerve," "single," "decade," "mermaid," "graphic," "interrupt," "pulpitry" and "agitation."
Paric, whose hobbies include music, computers and, of course, reading, says he worked hard in preparation for the event.
"Me and my mom practiced spelling at 6 a.m. every morning," he said. Paric's mother is a pharmacist at Safeway.
It couldn't have happened to a nicer young man, according to his teacher, Jodi Lorenz.
"He's an incredibly good speller, and a neat kid," she said.
What little spare time Paric has he spends playing several musical instruments including the piano, and writing computer programs for video games supplemented with his own musical compositions.
"I wasn't really born a good speller," Paric said. "But through reading I've become one. Playing video games also helps."
According to spelling bee coordinator and PHS teacher Peggy Miles, the first place to look for Paric is in the periodicals section of the new Payson Public Library.
"He loves the national news, but ultimately settles in at home with his own personal subscription to the Payson Roundup," she said.
The regional competition was loaded with current and former FES students. Paric was joined by schoolmates Amanda Finley and Jeff Day, and two of the three finalists from Rim Country Middle School (Sarah DeWitt and Eric Dory) are former FES students. RCMS student Ehren Welch was the only winner who did not attend FES, although alternate Maddie Nossek of Payson Elementary School also competed when DeWitt was unable to attend.
The six-student Payson contingent acquitted themselves well in the field of 28, according to Miles.
"In round four, five of the remaining 13 participants were from Payson," she said. "In round five, four of nine were from Payson; in round six, three of seven were from Payson; and in round seven, two of three were from Payson."
Finley, who wound up in third place, was the other Payson student still standing in the last round. After spelling "movement," "chapel," "conjunction," "connective," "difficult," "pueblo," "anxieties," and "melanoma" correctly, the FES fifth-grader stumbled on "unpredictable."
Nossek, one of only two fourth-graders in the regional, made it all the way to the sixth round. She eventually succumbed on the word "inducement."
Among the other Payson contestants, Welch went down in the fifth round on "fiery," Day lasted until round four when he misspelled "dissecting," and Dory was tripped up in the second round by "hoarseness."
For his victory, Paric was awarded a medal and a trophy.
At the state tournament March 23, the top 25 spellers in the state will square off to determine who will represent Arizona in Washington, D.C., at the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee in May.
The state champion gets an all-expenses-paid trip to the national contest, a $100 savings bond, and a Webster's Third New International Dictionary.
For more information on the spelling bee, go to the website azedfoundation.org.