Always on the lookout for the latest novel from her favorite author (Rick Riordan), sixth grader Sophia Albiek is a bookworm who, earlier this year, discovered a supreme talent – spelling.
Studies have shown that extensive reading helps facilitate vocabulary acquisition and spelling proficiency. As an avid reader, Albiek is constantly exposed to thousands of words, which inspired her to put her spelling skills to the test in the Heritage Hall Middle School Spelling Bee.
In January, Albiek won the annual event. Next, she scored in the top 50 in district competition to advance to the county bee, where a top-10 finish secured her spot in the Thunder Regional Spelling Bee. In June, winners from the Thunder and Tulsa regionals will represent Oklahoma on the national stage at the Scripps Bee in Washington, D.C.
Sponsored in part by the Oklahoma City Thunder, the regional bee was held at the Chesapeake Energy Arena earlier this month with only the 50 competitors, bee personnel, and limited audience members present. With both the district and county bees being virtual this year due to COVID-19, the regional competition would be Albiek’s first time under the spotlight since being on the Howard Theatre stage for the Middle School bee. The extra attention didn’t seem to faze Albiek, who finished third.
Although Albiek’s run fell short of the national bee, she was happy with the overall experience. “I never dreamed of getting this far, so it feels really good – I’m still celebrating. This experience expanded my English and world languages vocabulary, increased my study skills, developed my public speaking ability, and even made reading more fun; I enjoy searching for words from my list,” Albiek stated.
In preparation for the spelling bees, Albiek spent two hours a day studying up to 200 words from Words of the Champions, a list of 4,000 words that serves as the official study resource for the national bee, which her parents would then test her on. For the district and county bees, Albiek said she also had to learn the definition of each word.
Albiek’s impressive first-year run generated a number of congratulatory calls from family and friends, as well as one especially memorable moment. “I got a prank call from someone asking me how to spell ‘refrigerator.’ It was pretty funny,” recalled Albiek.
Looking ahead to next year, Albiek said she plans to defend her Heritage Hall title and see where it goes from there.