- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

CLOVIS, N.M. (AP) - Ariel Kokoricha doesn’t have any favorite words.

But a few least favorites come quickly to mind for New Mexico’s national spelling bee representative:

Lenitive (a laxative), and Cheshire (both a European country and an “Alice in Wonderland” cat).

Those words? They’re some of the rarest in the English language - words that knocked Kokoricha out of previous bees, despite her tried-and-true method of studying every morning before most of Clovis hears a wake-up alarm.

“I had practiced those words,” the Clovis Christian eighth-grader told the Clovis News Journal (https://bit.ly/1W0OR0C) with a hint of regret, but mostly with a pace and poise (bee word, meaning composure) rarely seen in her age group. “But I’d pronounced them wrong. So when I heard them pronounced the way they were correctly pronounced, I was thrown off.”

If Kokoricha can manage to keep another word from appearing on that list, she’ll be nationally known as she is in New Mexico - the queen bee.

Clovis Christian Elementary and Junior High Principal Linda D’Amour can’t say enough about Kokoricha, who has never finished lower than fourth in her five New Mexico bee appearances. She also took the title in 2013, and has one third-place and a pair of fourth-place finishes.

“She’s a legend to everybody at the state bee,” D’Amour said. “She was so young the first time she won.”

Now 13, Kokoricha aims to reach at least the semifinal round on her final opportunity in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which runs May 22-27 in Washington, D.C., and will air on ESPN beginning May 25.

Should she overshoot that goal and be the final speller standing, she would be just the third New Mexico resident to win the national bee and the first to do so as New Mexico’s representative. Nettie Crawford (1952) and Blake Giddens (1983) won their bees after winning an El Paso, Texas, qualifier.

The competition begins every August, when the words for the following year’s bee are made available. Kochoricha then spends each day getting up around 5:30 a.m., give or take an hour based on how much sleep she got the previous night, and studies myriad (bee word, meaning very great number) words before making breakfast for her two sisters.

“I try to know every word, even though that’s not really possible,” Kokoricha said. “You try to know at least a related word, or a similar word, so you have something to base your spelling on.”

And when does she study words the rest of the day? It’s not part of her routine (bee word, customary or usual procedure). While she was interviewed at CCS, she said the biggest misconception was that she spent every waking hour studying words.

“I do stuff outside of spelling and studying,” Kokoricha said. “I just took a painting section. I got an A on it; I was happy about that. I also just finished a session of ballet.”

She’s hoping to someday go to Harvard Medical School and be a neuropsychiatrist, but she’s just fine with her eighth-grade coursework and camaraderie (bee word, meaning mutual trust and friendship among people who spend time together).

A brief afternoon shadowing Kokoricha shows her as quite malleable (bee word, capable of being shaped), whether she’s talking with classmates or adult figures.

During an English course, the class is reading “The Importance of Being Earnest,” and she’s got the role of Cecily. She and a classmate read the lines - “My poor, wounded Cecily” . “My sweet, wronged Gwendolyn” - before both break character with a few giggles. Before the group asks the teacher if they can start Chapter 3 - a clear ruse to skip the homework questions at the end of Chapter 2 - Kokoricha identifies situational and dramatic irony to her teacher.

In social studies the following hour, the wit and intelligence find their way through silliness. When the teacher asks the class what they know of Richard Nixon, Kokoricha instantly puts both hands in the “not a crook” gesture that happened decades before her birth. Later, she pours herself a cup of colored candies, but eats them one color at a time and figures out the percentage of each remaining color.

When Kokoricha last appeared in the national bee, she was knocked out in the written test portion - “They give you a multiple choice, so you have to know what the word is supposed to do,” she said. This time around, she wants to be more of a competitor than a tourist.

“I went there before, so I’ve kind of seen everything,” Kokoricha said. “Now I want to study more when I’m there.”

Wherever she finishes, it will be her final time representing Clovis as the family is planning a move to Lucas, Texas. Her father, Tobore Kokoricha, is relocating his medical practice.

“I don’t remember a time I didn’t live in Clovis,” Ariel says with a pause, “even though I was born in Pennsylvania and spent time in New Jersey and Fort Sumner.”

D’Amour says whatever Kokoricha does, success is inevitable (bee word, something that can’t be avoided).

“Her love of language has made her so successful in many endeavors,” D’Amour said. “She has a gift.”

___

Information from: Clovis News Journal, https://www.cnjonline.com


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide