MARCH 11, 2010

Anna’s spelling odyssey ends

By Lito Ilagan

   Anna Grimaldo’s spelling odyssey, which has taken her as far as Washington, D.C. on three different occasions, ended last Saturday when she misspelled jacamar, which is a family of birds found mostly in low altitude woodlands and forests of South and Central America.

   It was a memorable journey. Starting in fifth grade at the tender age of nine, she distinguished herself as one of the youngest and most promising disctrict and regional spelling bee champions. For the next three years, she dominated the local spelling scene, garnering three consecutive district and regional championships.

   She missed, only by a point, a semifinal appearance in the Scripps National Spelling Bee last year.

   Hoping to make headway in the nationals on her last try, Anna easily dominated her district rivals for her fourth consecutive championship, which set her up once more for the regional plum. But as fate would have it, jacamar would be the immovable roadblock to put her prodigious journey to an end.

   Her spelling odyssey may have ended, but her dreams are still alive through the countless kids she has inspired.

   Sometimes, the object of the journey is not the end of it, but the journey itself. In Anna’s case, she may not have ended it on a high note, but her spelling journey has remarkably influenced a lot of people in our small community.

   People of older generations relish the fact that kids are starting to discover the joy of excelling in academics again, while the younger ones learns that they too can dream big even if they don’t play a sport.

   Her name will not be up there just because she won a lot of championships, but because she won a lot of hearts and changed the way people look at on this kind of competition. She has grown now and in the cusp of becoming a beautiful young lady, yet in all of these accomplishments, Anna was able to maintain her childlike demeanor and humility. She proved beyond words that small town kids are not small time dreamers and big spellers come in small packages.

   On her way out of LCSC after the Spelling Bee, Sandra Lee of the Lewiston Tribune asked Anna how it felt to lose on her last try. Anna told her she felt relieved it was all over, and said that she can now move on.

   Anna has learned through the words of her mother that she cannot have it all and losing is just a part of growing up. There are a lot of other things to look forward to. To learn such a thing this early will serve her in good stead.

   Is it really over for her? Anna was still misty eyed and her nose reddish from brief moments of sobbing when her younger sister, Frances, wrapped her arms around her and whispered, “I will fulfill your dreams.”

   The torch has been passed.