‘A-M-P-H-I-B-I-A-N’ wins the Frenship Spelling Bee

At 10 a.m. Friday, there were nine champion spellers sitting in the Casey Administration Building.

But within a half hour, only one was named the district champion.

Alex Lopez, a fourth-grader from Bennett Elementary School, won the Frenship Independent School District Spelling Bee with the words “panickiness,” a state in which he did not appear to be, and “amphibian.”

As he stood up to the microphone after runner-up Justine Cisneros misspelled “adolescence,” he already appeared excited.

When he received the second word, he started confidently, “A-M-P-H…” and then paused for a bit, looking slightly nervous before finishing, “I-B-I-A-N.”

After the judges table began applauding his spelling on “amphibian,” he jumped.

Alex was one of the younger competitors this year. For the first time in Frenship schools, three middle school champions were also in the competition. In previous years, the spellers have come only from elementary schools.

Cindy Cobb, director of curriculum, said middle school students were added to the mix to give more opportunities to Frenship students.

“Honestly, we couldn’t have implemented it into our middle schools without great leadership from our campus administrators,” Cobb said.

In the regional competition on March 5, middle school students from other districts are in the running. Alex will again face taller, older students with more years of reading to help them remember all those words.

“Perturb,” “altogether,” “mischief,” “replete,” “jealousy,” “manifestation” and “reimbursable” were words that felled Frenship spellers this year. Lopez successfully took on 10 words, including “laborious,” “muscular,” “fajitas,” “chromosome,” “insulation,” “militant,” “referendum” and “romaine.”

Alex said he reads a lot, mostly fiction such as the “Artemis Fowl” series by Eoin Colfer, or books by Rick Riordan.

“The rule is, he has to read a hundred pages a day, when he’s not spelling,” said his dad, Jaime Lopez, after the bee.

Alex does not seem to mind the rule, but he said his interest is always stronger when the subject is more interesting.

“It depends if I’m on a really good book,” he said.

In the weeks leading up to the bee, the reading requirements were lessened in favor of practicing spelling. He started practicing about two weeks before his school’s bee, mostly by using a website called spellingcity.com.

But his time commitment increased to about three hours a night in the week before the district bee, when his mom, Amee Lopez, began quizzing him. They started homing in on pronunciations then, she said, as well as studying origins of words.

Alex admitted to being excited.

“I never thought I’d even make it here,” he said after the bee.

But his dad corrected him, noting that Alex had talked about maybe going to the Scripps National Spelling Bee someday, and visiting the White House.

“It’s okay to dream big, as long as you work hard to get there,” Jaime Lopez said to his son.

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