Lynn Brown couldn’t stop beaming.
She’s witnessed a lot of proud moments in 25 years as an elementary school teacher. Seeing little Trina Desquitado win a regional Spelling Bee ranked right up there.
“I was amazed,” Brown said. “She was so calm and collected.”
Desquitado entered the Skagit County Regional Spelling Bee competition in Burlington March 23 as the tiniest of the competitors.
The Oak Harbor fifth-grader left the stage standing the tallest as she won the competition to earn a trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in late May.
Desquitado, a student in Brown’s class at Broad View Elementary School, was among the youngest of the 29 participants who were winners of their own school competitions in Skagit, Island and San Juan counties. Yet, the 11-year-old, who stands 4-foot-4, was not to be denied, claiming the top prize in a competition that involved students from fourth-to-eighth grade.
“My goal was to win it,” Desquitado said. “I wrote it on a piece of paper.”
Desquitado’s optimism rose after she won the school’s Spelling Bee in January. She didn’t take studying seriously at first, but that changed after she was given a 32-page packet filled with 1,150 words to study for the regional competition.
A photo of the 2012 regional winner on one page got Desquitado’s attention the most, according to her mother, Badette Alarkon Desquitado.
“She told me, ‘Mom, I want to be a champion just like her. I want to get that trophy,’” Badette said.
Badette wanted to encourage her daughter, but also wanted to protect her against disappointment.
Trina then wrote the words “Goal: Win!” next to the photo, and an intensive two-month family study session began.
Badette covered the inside of their home with spelling words written on legal-sized green sheets of paper. She taped the sheets together and group them by word origin.
“We’d have Latin on the dining room wall,” Badette said. “Greek would be on the (cardboard) TV box in the living room. In the kitchen would be old English.”
There were 14 groups arranged by word origin with each offering clues and patterns on how to spell words.
“We wanted to have constant visualization,” Badette said.
“My mom told me, ‘Don’t spell it like it is in English,” Trina said.
Trina’s sisters, Therese and Tricia, who both attend Oak Harbor High School, also got into the act. They were no strangers to hard work and its rewards, both experiencing success in the Wildcats’ accomplished NJROTC and swimming programs.
As it turned out, practice made perfect.
When Trina got to the big stage at Bay View Elementary in Burlington, she spelled her words correctly in all 20 rounds.
“She got up there, pulled the microphone down and with no hesitation, just spelled it,” Brown said. “Others were searching to find the right spelling. Every time, she was like, ‘boom, boom, boom.’”
In the end, the competition came down to Trina and eighth-grader Tara Dobos of Orcas Island School.
Trina correctly spelled “oratorio,” while Dobos stumbled on the word “inane.”
That left Trina with a chance to win the whole thing by spelling one more word.
When Trina heard the word “mystique,” called out, she had to contain her excitement.
“I knew that one,” she said with a smile.
After spelling it correctly, Trina was the last one standing, earning a trip to the national Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. May 26-June 1.
Oak Harbor Middle School eighth grader Corbin Phipps finished third.
After winning, Trina remained on stage and thanked her mom.
“She said, ‘I would like to acknowledge my mom,’” Badette said. “She said, ‘Mom I used a big word.’ And she cried.”
Badette joined her daughter on stage and shed tears as well.
They wasted little time before calling Rex Desquitado, Trina’s dad who is in Saudi Arabia doing contract work for the military.
March has been a huge month for the Desquitados. On March 16, Therese and Tricia helped Oak Harbor’s JROTC team win its first regional championship. A week later, Trina was regional Spelling Bee champ.
“I don’t want to flip the calendar,” Badette said.
She also doesn’t want to worry so much the next time her youngest daughter tries to tackle something that seems out of reach.
“I learned to never underestimate the dream of your child,” she said.
Contact Whidbey News-Times staff reporter Ron Newberry at firstname.lastname@example.org