After making it to all the way to the 15th round at the Scripps National Spelling Bee near Washington, D.C., Sylvie Lamontagne finally met her match with the word “chaoborine,” a type of gnat. Lamontagne finished in fourth place at the national contest and was awarded $10,000 for her efforts. The fourth-place finish marked her second year in a row to place in the top 10 at the event, which drew almost 300 contestants.
“I was much more nervous this year because I had higher expectations following my performance last year. I wanted to do better, and as a result I felt like I had trouble breathing properly at times,” she says.
Lamontagne placed ninth last year in the national spelling contest. She first demonstrated her spelling skills in the third grade, when her teacher administered a written spelling test on which she performed flawlessly. She says she prepared for the grueling national bee using an online program called Quizlet.
The 13-year-old, who will attend Lakewood High School in the fall, is the daughter of Bluff Lake Nature Center’s Executive Director Jeff Lamontagne.
“It’s really unique in terms of how extremely competitive it is,” he says. “These kids put in more hours than anyone can understand. To be in the top 10 two years in a row is really lofty. But the kids make friends there. It makes for a neat study between competition and camaraderie.”
Sylvie says she plans to use some of her winnings to return to the bee next year just to watch.