Cyber Academy student wins Spanish spelling bee

From left, Cyber Academy sixth-grader Valorie Marquez displays her first place certificate next to Mountain View Middle School seventh-grader Briana Ledezma. Photo by Kim Vesely.

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — It took 13 hard-fought rounds for her to get there, but a Rio Rancho Cyber Academy sixth-grader stands atop the Spanish-spelling pyramid in the City of Vision.

Valeria Marquez is the winner of the 16th annual Rio Rancho Spanish Spelling Bee and will represent Rio Rancho at the New Mexico State Spanish Spelling Bee on April 13 at the Hispanic Cultural Center. She outlasted Mountain View Middle School seventh-grader Brianna Ledezma, the runner-up, and third place finisher Fabian Estrada Flores, a seventh-grader from Rio Rancho Middle School.

It’s the first time a student from the Cyber Academy has won a city-wide spelling bee, either English or Spanish.

This year’s Concurso de Deletreo en Español, Spanish-language Spelling Bee, featured 24 spellers from 12 schools. The field was whittled to the final three in the first six rounds, and then the fireworks began. Marquez, Ledezma and Estrada Flores dueled for another five rounds, facing down tough words like parlancin (“joker”), faisán (peasant), pretérito (past, as in past tense) and alevosía (taking advantage). But none of the spellers could seal the deal by correctly spelling two words in sequence.

By the 12th round, Estrada Flores had fallen out and Ledezma missed graduación (graduation) to hand the stage to Marquez. Marquez then correctly spelled graduación and a second championship word, conjugar (conjugate), to win the bee.

The Spanish spelling bee is similar to the annual Rio Rancho English-language Spelling Bee.

Students spell Spanish words using the Spanish alphabet, pronunciation and characters. For example, students must include the accent when spelling the word adiós, and the “ñ” in spelling mañana.

Students from Cielo Azul, Colinas del Norte, Enchanted Hills, Ernest Stapleton, Martin Luther King Jr., Puesta del Sol and Vista Grande elementary schools; Eagle Ridge, Lincoln, Mountain View and Rio Rancho middle schools; Rio Rancho Cyber Academy; and St. Thomas Aquinas School competed in the Rio Rancho Spanish Spelling Bee this year. The bee is open to students in fourth through eighth grades, and each participating school may send up to two representatives.