Roberto trips on ‘t,’ takes 3rd at state

News staff writer

Hood River Middle School 8th grader Roberto Nunez returned from the state fair Sept. 3 with a $50 savings bond and a framed certificate naming him as third place winner in the Oregon State Spelling Contest.

Roberto, who has been to the state contest three times before, was one of 23 participants in his division (grades 6-8). They were each given 30 words to spell, then a 5-word tie-breaker.

“They don’t tell you who’s tied with whom,” Roberto said. “So I really didn’t know who I was up against.”

The last word he remembers spelling correctly is “efflux,” one of the five tie-breakers. The one he missed was “cetaceous.”

“I know how to spell it – but for some reason I put a ‘t’ in place of the second ‘c,’” he said.

The Oregon State Spelling Contest has been a part of the Oregon State Fair tradition for 29 years. Winners are chosen at school, district and county levels to participate in the contest. Roberto first entered in the third grade, but didn’t make it past the district level that year.

“But I won in 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th grades,” he said. This was his first win at state.

“He just reads like crazy – he reads a lot, but he didn’t study,” said his dad, Roberto Nunez-Elisea. “I think it would be very boring to study words!”

Roberto favors books “full of science and adventure,” such as those written by Jules Verne, Christopher Paolini and Philip Pullman. But do those books really contain words like “avoirdupois,” “parquetry,” and “quinquagenarian” – the other three tie-breaker words?

This wasn’t part of the national spelling bee program, but Roberto said he’d enter one of those if he had the opportunity.

“I think I would lose, but I think I would enter, to learn some new words,” he said.

“The state fair was a good experience – you get to go to the fair for free, and you have a chance to win $200, which you don’t get until you’re 18, but by then it’s worth more than $200!”

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