MOT Charter School seventh-grader Daria Willis earned a second-place finish at the Scripps State Spelling Bee this month, her third runner-up title in three years.
MOT Charter School seventh-grader Daria Willis earned a second-place finish at the Scripps State Spelling Bee this month, her third runner-up title in three years. First-place winner Lily Allingham of Sanford Middle School, Willis and third-place speller Ria Swaminathan of Holy Cross School finished in the exact same order at last year’s state spelling bee. This year, the girls won out over 62 other spellers in the fourth through eighth grades after 72 rounds.
Q What’s it like to be one of the top spellers in Delaware?
A It’s cool. I like learning stuff and being up there spelling crazy words, and knowing words from other languages and stuff. I have one more year of competing in the spelling bee and I really want to win first, but it’s cool to be second place in the whole state of Delaware.
Q How have you been able to become such a great speller?
A I just read a lot and start preparing early. My teacher emails my parents the list of words and in October or November my parents will call them out for me to spell or I read them over before I go to bed. This year, my teacher, Mrs. [Bernadette] DeLong, and Mrs. [Terry] Angelus, the principal at my school, came to the spelling bee to support me, and it was really awesome to know they were there cheering me on.
Q What has preparing for the spelling bees taught you?
A I’ve learned a lot of new words and their definitions. I’ve also learned that if you try to cram everything into your head at the very end, it doesn’t work too well. I’ve also learned to be a good sport and when you lose, don’t scream and cry. You just have to keep trying.
Q What will you do differently to prepare for next year’s spelling bee?
A Last year, I made an easy mistake, and this year I lost on the word “credence” because I didn’t hear it right. It sounded like a mix of “crazy” and something else. So next year, I’ll probably move closer and listen to the words harder.
Q You and the other top two spellers this year finished in the same places last year. Have you gotten to become friends?
A Sort of. They’re nice. But when I saw them this year, I said, “Oh no, this is going to take a long time again,” because they’re both really good.
Q What would you like to be when you grow up?
A I’m not exactly sure. Maybe be a doctor and an author. I’ve already had a couple of poems published—one in “The American Library of Poetry” called “The Hill She Wasn’t Supposed to be On” and another in “Highlights” magazine for children. It was a poem I wrote when I was 9 called, “Sunrise.” I like writing. It’s fun.
MORE ABOUT DARIA
FAMILY Dad, Brad; mom, Elena; brother, Daniel, 9
EDUCATION Seventh-grader MOT Charter School
FAVORITE BOOK Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson & the Olympians” series
HOBBIES Dancing, Science Olympiad, drawing, art piano and reading