Palm Crest student spells her way to the top

Palm Crest Elementary student wins LCUSD's annual spelling bee.

January 30, 2014|By Sara Cardine
  • La Cañada Preparatory School fifth-grader Jordan Lay, left, and Palm Crest Elementary School sixth-grader Naomi Kearl won second and first place trophies, respectively, at the La Cañada Unified Spelling Bee last Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. As winner, Kearl will move on to the LA County Spelling Bee March 26 in Alhambra.
La Cañada Preparatory School fifth-grader Jordan… (Photo by Sara Cardine )

How do you spell success? At La Cañada Unified School District, it's spelled N-A-O-M-I, thanks to a standout performance last Thursday at the district's annual spelling bee from Palm Crest sixth-grader Naomi Kearl, who beat 15 other elementary school competitors to clinch a spot in the Ninth Annual Los Angeles County Spelling Bee, to be held March 26.

School-site winners from La Cañada Preparatory School and Palm Crest, Paradise Canyon and La Cañada elementary schools, deconstructed "pedantic" words with "ferocious" "velocity" over the course of four grueling rounds in the district office's Governing Board room.

Rules of the competition were read by Palm Crest Principal Karen Hurley and enforced by La Cañada High School assistant principals James Cartnal and Dr. Jarrett Gold, who served as judges with district Assistant Supt. Patty Hagar.

"There will only be one winner tonight, but I want you to know you're all winners," Hurley said before the contest. "Congratulations for making it up here."


The first two spellers struck out. By the third round the crowd had thinned by four contestants, who collected commemorative medals before taking seats in the audience. Words increased in difficulty, from "quest" and "kayak" in the beginning to "entrepreneur" and "acquaintance" toward the end. Struggling contestants could request a word be defined or used in a sentence.

The final round pitted Kearl against La Cañada Prep fifth-grader Jordan Lay, whose cool delivery seemed a competitive edge.

"At this point we have two contestants left," Hurley said. "Basically, you have to spell two words correctly to be the winner. Good luck."

The first word, "orthodontist" threw Lay for a loop, and she got it wrong. Kearl took a stab and stumbled on the same vowel, keeping both girls in the fight.

Next, "insidious," proved to be just that for Lay, who faltered six letters in. Kearl saw her chance and spelled it correctly, victory just one word away. The audience was breathless as Cartnal announced the final word: "vengeance." Kearl nailed it to win the competition.

Afterward, Liza Kearl confessed her daughter's win was a special one.

"She's been in the spelling bee for the last two years, but she's never made it to the district," she said. "Third time's the charm."

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