It all came down to “orchid.”
No, not the flower, the actual word.
And when fifth-grader Zach Varela saw his opponent falter over the spelling of it, he knew he had the Jersey Juniors Southern Regional Spelling Bee in the bag.
Placing second in the West Deptford Junior Women’s Club Spelling Bee, Varela took home first place in the Jersey Juniors Southern Regional Spelling Bee, held at the Haddon Fortnightly on Feb. 24. Leading his region, Varela will be one of six representing South Jersey at the Jersey Juniors State Spelling Bee at Rutgers University in New Brunswick this weekend.
An avid reader, Varela says he has built up an extensive vocabulary over the years from flagging unfamiliar words. Over the years, any new word he would stumble upon while reading was immediately written down. Varela says he would then use a dictionary to look up the word that had been previously unknown to him.
Being one of the six from his region, he will also join the top six finalists in the Central and North Jersey regionals to participate in the state spelling bee. Varela adds that in doing so, it means that he is one of the 18 top spellers in the state.
“Just knowing that makes me feel important,” says Varela.
Varela is always focused on his studies, regardless of any recognition he may receive along the way, says West Deptford Middle School principal Michael Fanelli.
Varela made the Principal’s List for the marking period.
“He does his job and doesn’t worry about the accolades that go with it,” says Fanelli.
Gearing up for competition this weekend, Varela continues to look over the word list provided to him in preparation. Soon to join the top fourth- and fifth-grade spellers from the state, he is nervous to compete, but calls it “a good nervous.”
Extremely happy to have already placed first in regionals, he adds that winning it all in the state competition would just be icing on the cake.
“I would be overjoyed and really proud,” says Varela.
Along with Varela, Woodbury student Andrew Zappley will also be making the trip up to New Brunswick after placing sixth in the regional competition.
The Jersey Juniors State Spelling Bee is scheduled for Saturday, March 9 at the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs Headquarters on the campus of Douglass Residential College at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. In the case of inclement weather, the spelling bee will be rescheduled to Sunday, March 10.
For additional information on the Jersey Juniors State Spelling Bee, please visit the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs website.