Cedarville fifth grader in national spelling bee

By Scott Halasz - [email protected]



CEDARVILLE — Spell check may no longer be needed by Cedarville students.

They have something B-E-T-T-E-R … Sophia Lopez

The fifth-grader at Cedarville Elementary is a four-time school spelling bee champ and she qualified for the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md. — about 10 miles south of Washington, D.C. — after taking an online qualification test.

The 11-year-old is believed to be the only Cedarville student to have made it to the national contest, which is televised nationally.

“It feels kind of cool,” she said.

Winning the local bee qualified Lopez into the regional bee — sponsored by the Dayton-Area Spelling Bee Collaborative. But she finished sixth out of 14 and did not advance. So she applied through the RSVBee program, which offers school spelling champs another way to make it to the national contest.

“They want more spellers to have a chance to do it,” said Lopez, who did not get accepted through RSVBee last year.

“I didn’t really expect to get in (this year), she said. “It was just surprising.”

But now, as speller No. 376, Lopez will compete with 564 others to be the national champ and win the $50,000 cash prize and a couple talk show appearances among other educational prizes.

Preliminaries based on a 600-word study list begin at 11 a.m. Monday, May 27. Round two begins at 8 a.m. May 28 with Lopez’s group beginning at 1:15 p.m. Round three for those who didn’t misspell a word in round two begins later in the day on May 28 and continues into May 29.

Finalists — no more than 50 — are announced around 4:45 May 29 with competition beginning at 8:30 p.m. May 30 on ESPN. All rounds after the prelims are based on the Merriam-Webster Unabridged.

“I’m hoping to get through round two and hopefully round three,” Lopez said. “I don’t think I’ll win. The words before the winning words, they get super hard.”

That didn’t stop Lopez when she entered her first Cedarville bee as a second grader. Going up against kids through fifth grade, Lopez was undaunted.

“I knew I wanted to win,” she said “I don’t know if I believed I could. (But) I was just super happy.”

The next year, the joke in the fifth-grade classroom was that nobody needed to study because “Sophia’s just going to win.”

“It makes me feel proud of myself,” she said.

Principal Mark Gainer said most of the time second-grade kids make it a round or two.

“I remember talking to her after one of the school bees, and she shared that she really wanted to make it to the national bee,” he said. “Sophia is a great representative for our school. She is a great student, who works hard, but even more than that, is a great example for other students.”

Lopez, the daughter of Manuel and Mary Lopez, also won the Ohio State Fair spelling bee in 2018 by spelling “salvageable.”

“I read a lot,” she said. “And I like to study spelling. Just kind of kept doing it. It got better and better.”

Now she has a chance to be the B-E-S-T.


By Scott Halasz

[email protected]

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.