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Bee-utiful victory

West Linn 12-year-old goes 14 rounds to win Tribune/Comcast spelling bee

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Natalie Cha of Three Rivers Charter School is the winner of the Regional Spelling Bee held at the Hollywood Theater, Saturday, March 7. Cha stands with Rebecca Brown of Comcast, left, and Mark Garber, president of Portland Tribune and Community Newspapers. Cha will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May.Natalie Cha from Three Rivers Charter School in West Linn correctly spelled “geniculate” to win the 2015 Portland Tribune/Comcast Regional Spelling Bee on Saturday in Portland.

Cha, 12, defeated 50 other spelling champions to win the contest. She heads to Washington, D.C., in May for the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Cha triumphed after 14 nail-biting rounds of increasingly difficult words. The runner up, Vipanchi Mungara, tripped up on the word “winze,” which is a vertical or deeply inclined opening connecting parts of a mine. Mungara is an 11-year-old from Carden Cascade Academy in Hillsboro.

Cha’s secret to her spelling super power?

“She reads a lot,” her mother, Stephanie, said. “We read her the ‘Your Baby Can Read’ books starting at about six months, and by two years she was recognizing words.”

Cha repeatedly asked for the origin of her assigned spelling words. “The language of origin helps a lot,” she said.

The spelling champ is looking forward to her expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. Cha, who has never been to the nation’s capital, is most excited about the actual spelling bee, rather the sights.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Natalie Cha, 12, of Three Rivers Charter School in West Linn, will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May.

“That’ll be super-cool,” she said of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Many of the spellers were eliminated early in the bee, which lasted nearly two hours. The first round saw seven fall and in the second round, another 11 were eliminated.

By the end of Round 6, only four girls and one boy were left to spell.

Two-time winner Divya Amirtharaj, 13, from Meadow Park Middle School, Beaverton, was stumped this year in Round 9 by the word “orrery.” During each of the last two years, Amirtharaj made it through three rounds at the national spelling bee.

Manasi Sridhar, 14, from Hazlebrook Middle School, got tripped up on the word “assassinate.” Luc Ta, 12, from Thomas Fowler Middle School, was knocked out by “Muzak.”

At the beginning of Round 10, just Cha and Mungara were left. They spelled a string of words, including “effete,” “Appolo” and “nonuple.” To win, the final speller must spell two words in a row correctly.

Cha had an impressive cheering section. Both sets of Cha’s grandparents — one from California and the other from Michigan — were on hand to watch her victory.

The bragging rights come with the trip to Washington D.C., 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.

Cha’s advice for improving your spelling? “Read a lot. It is a fun way to learn new words,” she said.

— Shasta Kearns Moore contributed to this report.

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