"Oyster." A delectable treat from the sea for some. For McKenna Curtis, a word she'll likely always remember.
That's the word that earned 8-year-old McKenna the second grade championship at the 26th annual Del Norte County Unified School District Spelling Bee on Thursday.
She was one of 150 students from grades 2 through 8 throughout the district participating in the competition at Crescent Elk School.
"This was my first spelling bee," said McKenna, a student at Mary Peacock Elementary School. "I felt really confident because I thought I could do a really good job."
Her hard work paid off.
"I had to study for about three-and-a-half weeks" before the competition, she said. "I had some trouble with some of the study words because I got fooled with some of the pronunciations, but my mom and dad helped me get through it."
Parents Kyle and Meagan Curtis of Smith River were as relieved as she was when the competition was over.
"They were so happy," McKenna said. "They said that they were really good memories and that they would never forget it."
As for McKenna, "It feels really cool because I feel like I've accomplished something."
She said she had been good at spelling since kindergarten, but the winning word was tricky, even for an 8-year-old. "I felt 50 percent confident," in the proper spelling of "oyster," she said. "I tried my best and that's how I won."
Coming to school the next day with her medal, her classmates congratulated her.
"They thought I was like famous," McKenna said. "I just thought it was so cool that everyone admired me."
Bill Hartwick, principal at Crescent Elk and chairperson for the spelling bee, couldn't have been happier about this year's competition.
"It was one of the better bees we've had in a long time," he said. "It was amazing, just a huge community effort."
It's the ninth bee that he's been involved with for the district.
"We had a pretty packed house," he said, "Even though it was a stormy night, everyone came out. We had 95 percent attendance."
He gives a big "congratulations" to the participants, but is quick to give credit where credit is due.
"I want to thank all the volunteers, the clerical staff at Crescent Elk, Diane Weldon from Curriculum and Instruction and the custodial staff," he said. "Without all their help the bee would not be possible."
Here's a list of all the winners:
First place: McKenna Curtis, grade 2, Mary Peacock School; Daniel Gonzalez, grade 3, Pine Grove; Sriya Joshi, grade 4, Mary Peacock; Breanna Gragg, grade 5, Mary Peacock; Monique Camarena, grade 6, Crescent Elk; Weconah Stevenson, grade 7, Redwood; Sam Seymour, grade 8, Redwood.
Second place: Isabella Garcia, grade 2, Redwood; Kai
Zendejas, grade 3, Joe Hamilton; Megan Levy, grade 4, Joe Hamilton; Morgan Throop, grade 5, Joe Hamilton; Lauren Galeja, grade 6, Redwood; Dhaval Prajapati, grade 7, Redwood; Keen Penkian, grade 8, Crescent Elk.
Third place: River Bighead, grade 2, Joe Hamilton; Sage Fletcher, grade 3, Four Square; Colin Williamson, grade 4, Mary Peacock; Brandon Rippetoe, grade 5, Redwood; Allison Schnoover, grade 6, Four Square; Maddy Wiley, grade 7, Mountain School; Brittany DeNicolas, grade 8, Crescent Elk.