Tara Huber spelled "wejack" correctly to win the 12th annual Deseret News Spelling Bee in the 17th round Friday. But for the petite 11-year-old from Vernal, "tenacity," "determination" and "willpower" would have been more appropriate winning words.
Tara undoubtedly can spell them. She proved she can spell about anything by outdistancing 39 others to finish number one in the state competition sponsored the Deseret News, State PTA, Utah Education Association and State Office of Education. She won an expense-paid trip to the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., May 29-June 4."Tenacity," "determination" and "willpower" are words that apply to Tara . Suffering from severe asthma and other medical problems, Tara has been hospitalized numerous times in her young life and missed countless days of school. She has had to work doubly hard to keep those A's on her report cards.
But that wasn't the only obstacle on her path to the Utah spelling championship. The nerves that usually mean sweaty palms for most contestants could trigger an asthmatic attack for Tara.
"The stress level is much higher than for normal kids, and you really have to know when you can push or how hard," said her dad, Victor.
In case of problems, her parents had Tara's breathing equipment and additional medications in their car. They carry them everywhere; fortunately, they weren't needed Friday. "I felt all right," Tara said nonchalantly.
Tara's rise to the top came in the 14th round when there were only four spellers left on stage at Clayton Intermediate School. William Nielsen, 14, Juab Middle School, Nephi, missed "karting" by replacing the "k" with a "c," and Jared Mildenstein, 12, Dixon Middle School, Provo, flubbed "immiserization."
That left Tara and Jared Inoye, 13, Gunnison High eighth grade, Gunnison. In rapid succession, the two reeled off some real toughies "recrudescent," "resurgency," "slentando," "refocillate" and "palpability."
"Vigintillion," word pronouncer Beverly Cook said to Jared.
"Vigintillion," Jared said. "V-I-G-I-N-T-I-L-L-I-A-N."
A judge hit the bell. "Incorrect," Cook said. It was Tara's turn. She spelled it correctly. To win she had to spell another word correctly. It was "wejack," a woodchuck.
When Cook announced it, Tara knew she'd won. "W-E-J-A-C-K," she spelled without hesitation.
Although she realized her victory as soon as Cook pronounced the word, she admitted that she was almost tripped up on the 10th round by "segno." "I just guessed," she said.
Actually, her father explained, her unfamiliarity with the word was because the family had been pronouncing it differently during spelling drills.
Spelling has really been a family affair for the Hubers. For two hours daily since November, her dad, a carpenter, and her mom, Karen, a kindergarten teacher, have been poring over spelling lists with their daughters Tara, Colleen, 13, and Erin, 9.
Erin, a third grader, won't be able to compete until next fall. But Colleen has already proven herself a spelling champ. She placed fifth in the state contest two years. She was third behind her sister in the Uintah School District competition a few weeks ago.
The girls good-naturedly agreed that it's made for some sibling rivalry. "They've been at each other's throats," their dad joked.
With the Hubers, some might wonder if good spelling is hereditary. Victor Huber was Hanson County, South Dakota, spelling champ in 1956, and Karen Huber was a runner-up in the Charles Mix County, South Dakota, spelling contest.
The Hubers plan to continue the daily spelling study until the national contest next month. The top 10 spellers and their schools are: Tara Huber, Vernal Middle School, Vernal; Jared Inouye, Gunnison High eighth grade, Gunnison; Jared Mildenstein, Dixon Middle School, Provo; William Nielsen, Juab Middle School, Nephi; Brittany Watne, St. Vincent's Catholic School, Murray; Amy Hobbs, Grand County Middle School, Moab; Ambre ReMillard, South Summit Middle School, Kamas; Karl Fails, Orem Junior High School, Orem; Sara Roosevelt, Albion Middle School, Sandy; and Gordon Mills, Spanish Fork eighth grade, Spanish Fork.