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Tigard champ heads to third and final Regional Spelling Bee

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Luc Ta competes in last year's Scripps Regional Spelling Bee. Ta is preparing for this third (and final) regional spelling bee this weekend. If he wins he'll head to the national championships in Washington, D.C.Fowler Middle School eighth grader Luc Ta doesn’t “do” nervous. When he steps onto the stage this weekend, he'll be all business.

The 13th annual Portland Tribune/Comcast Regional Spelling Bee returns to Portland this weekend, Saturday, March 12, at the Hollywood Theatre.

Spellers between the fourth and eighth grades from more than 50 schools in the tri-county region will participate, including several from the Tigard-Tualatin and Sherwood school districts. The Times' parent company, Community Newspapers, is a major sponsor of the event.

But among the contestants, a few notable faces won’t be in attendance this year, including the 2015 reigning champion, West Linn’s Natalie Cha from Three Rivers Charter School.

That leaves the door wide open for a new champion. Observers say Hillsboro’s Vipanchi Mungara, is the one to beat this year. Mungara, at age 11, was runner-up last year.

But Ta, 14, from Fowler Middle School, also has his eyes on the prize.

This will be Ta’s third regional spelling bee.

“It all started in 6th grade,” Ta recalled. “I thought, ‘Maybe it’ll be cool if I try out (for my school spelling bee). Maybe I’ll get second place, but I won, which was surprising.”

That lead up to the Regional competition, where he has placed third the past two years.

“It’s good for my education,” Ta said.


Tigard-Tualatin, Sherwood contestants

Tigard-Tualatin School District

• Cate Phipps, 12 – Hazelbrook Middle School

• Luc Ta, 14 – Fowler Middle School

• Kavya Balasubramanian, 14 – Twality Middle School


Sherwood School District

• Sogia Maciejewski, 11 – Archer Glen Elementary School

• Lilly Bryant, 9 – Edy Ridge Elementary School

• Nathan Domingo, 10 – J. Clyde Hopkins Elementary School

• Kieran Tran, 11 – Middleton Elementary School


Private Schools

• Sarah Bashir, 12 – Islamic School of MET


Ta said that spelling has always come naturally to him.

“I’ve read since an early age,” he said. “I like reading, and I pick up on patterns in words pretty easily.”

Give him a word with a Latin or Greek origin and it’s easy to see how the letters fall into place, he said.

“I can comprehend those a lot more easily than some other kids might,” he said. “I’m really good any analyzing things and pickup up on patterns, but I’m not so good at rote memorization.”

Last year, Ta was knocked out of the competition by the word “muzak,” a brand of background music in retail stores.

“I struggled with that one,” he said. “It didn’t have a pattern or origin.”

Ta has yet to graduate middle school, but he’s already planning for his future.

“I obviously want to get into college,” he said. “I’m hoping for something prestigious. I’m aiming for Ivy League, since I’m an overachiever, but I’m still deciding what I’ll want to study.”

With his last Spelling Bee only a few days away, Ta said he’s not nervous.

“I have experience with it. And I’m pretty confident about how I’ll do. I can’t guarantee that I’ll win, but I’m not nervous.”

“His parents are more nervous than he is,” his father Max Ta said.

The winner gets expenses paid to participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May. They also get a $100 American Express gift certificate from Comcast, a Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, and a one-year subscription to the Encyclopedia Britannica Online Student Edition.

Ta said he’s been studying up ahead of this weekend’s competition.

“I keep reading the study guide and have my parents quiz me while we’re driving,” he said.