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This Miami student finished second in last year’s spelling bee. This time she won

When Camila Sanchez-Izquierdo took second place in the Miami Herald Spelling Bee for Miami-Dade and Monroe counties last year, she never thought she would get this far again.

This year she returned to the 84th annual competition, held Wednesday at the New World Center in Miami Beach, and won.

When asked how she feels, Camila, an eighth-grade student at Highpoint Academy, an elementary school in Miami-Dade County, said, “That’s so hard to describe,” chuckling. “I have no words.”

The 13-year-old spelled ‘panopticon’, or an optical instrument, correctly for the first time. The audience gasped, cheered and leaned forward, waiting to see if she would seal the deal with a winning word.

Camila Sanchez-Izquierdo, of Highpoint Academy, wins the Miami Herald Miami-Dade/Monroe County Spelling Bee.  Orlando Bodes of the Archimedes Academy, left, comes second.

Camila Sanchez-Izquierdo, of Highpoint Academy, wins the Miami Herald Miami-Dade/Monroe County Spelling Bee. Orlando Bodes of the Archimedes Academy, left, comes second.

She then correctly spelled “retrospective,” the act of looking back or reflecting on past events, and her face lit up in a smile.

Sanchez-Izquierdo will now represent Miami-Dade and Monroe counties in the 97th Scripps National Spelling Bee, a televised event that will take place from May 26 to June 1 in Maryland. She will compete against hundreds of spellers who have also won regional bees in the United States and other countries.

“When I was on stage, I kept thinking, ‘I’m going to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Wow,” Sánchez-Izquierdo said. “I’m going to DC!”

Last year’s Scripps winner received $50,000 in cash, a medal and the Scripps Cup – the official trophy of the Spelling Bee, decorated with flowers and bees in pastel colors.

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A look at the 2023 Miami Herald Spelling Bee winners for Miami-Dade and Monroe students, with Camila Sanchez-Izquierdo (right), the 2024 winner, coming in second.A look at the 2023 Miami Herald Spelling Bee winners for Miami-Dade and Monroe students, with Camila Sanchez-Izquierdo (right), the 2024 winner, coming in second.

A look at the 2023 Miami Herald Spelling Bee winners for Miami-Dade and Monroe students, with Camila Sanchez-Izquierdo (right), the 2024 winner, coming in second.

Table of Contents

How did these 25 spellers get here?

The Miami Herald sponsors two spelling bees each year, one for Miami-Dade and Monroe students and another for Broward students. The latter takes place Thursday at the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale.

Students in first through eighth grades from public schools, charter schools, private schools and home schools can participate. All students first participate in local competitions at their school. The winners then qualify for the Herald’s Bee and are given a vocabulary list to practice.

Barbara Briceno, a BridgePrep Academy student, spells a word during the first round of the Miami Herald Miami-Dade/Monroe County Spelling Bee.Barbara Briceno, a BridgePrep Academy student, spells a word during the first round of the Miami Herald Miami-Dade/Monroe County Spelling Bee.

Barbara Briceno, a BridgePrep Academy student, spells a word during the first round of the Miami Herald Miami-Dade/Monroe County Spelling Bee.

On Wednesday, the children shuffled in around 9 a.m., some biting their nails and others playing with their hair.

Alana Kaplan, the mother of Simone Kaplan, a three-time winner of the Miami Herald Spelling Bee and runner-up of the National Scripps Spelling Bee in 2019, greeted them. She told the 25 children that her now 18-year-old daughter had participated in three Miami Herald bees and used the wrong words at each one. It was okay, she said.

“Breathe slowly. Try to spell as accurately as possible,” she told them.

“I know we all look scary, but we’re not,” she added about the judges.

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Soon after, parents and other family members entered the room with signs and flowers. They took pictures and gave their children a thumbs up.

Simone Kaplan, known for her bee fashion, wore a white blazer with a gold studded bee on the back and was the challenger on Wednesday.

Simone Kaplan, chair and three-time Miami Herald Spelling Bee winner and 2019 National Scripps Spelling Bee runner-up, explains the rules to participants during the Miami Herald Miami-Dade/Monroe County Spelling Bee at the New World Center in Miami Beach .Simone Kaplan, chair and three-time Miami Herald Spelling Bee winner and 2019 National Scripps Spelling Bee runner-up, explains the rules to participants during the Miami Herald Miami-Dade/Monroe County Spelling Bee at the New World Center in Miami Beach .

Simone Kaplan, chair and three-time Miami Herald Spelling Bee winner and 2019 National Scripps Spelling Bee runner-up, explains the rules to participants during the Miami Herald Miami-Dade/Monroe County Spelling Bee at the New World Center in Miami Beach .

In addition to Alana Kaplan, participants included Heidi Carr, program director of undergraduate public relations at the University of Miami and former Miami Herald editor; and longtime Spelling Bee volunteer Debbie Christie.

Juan Rondeau, a 15-year-old ninth-grader at Westminster Christian School who won the bee for Miami-Dade and Monroe for the third time in a row last year, joined the jury as an assistant judge.

FROM LAST YEAR: This 8th grader from Argentina just won the spelling bee for the third year in a row

15 laps at the 2024 Miami-Dade, Monroe Bee

Wednesday’s bee lasted 15 rounds, or about three hours.

It started with words from the given list: ashamed, avenue, canoe. Four students lost in the first round.

At the start of the fourth round, the judges ran out of words from the list, so they continued with words from the dictionary. Although some seemed simple, such as “chronological” (which the dictionary defines as “according to the order of time”), they challenged spellers because they had not studied them before.

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Yazlenny Avila, of Thinking Child Christian Academy, spells a word during the third round Miami Herald Miami-Dade/Monroe County Spelling Bee.Yazlenny Avila, of Thinking Child Christian Academy, spells a word during the third round Miami Herald Miami-Dade/Monroe County Spelling Bee.

Yazlenny Avila, of Thinking Child Christian Academy, spells a word during the third round Miami Herald Miami-Dade/Monroe County Spelling Bee.

Towards the end, some audience members raised their eyebrows in surprise at lesser-known words such as ‘gloriosa’, a plant, and ‘exegesis’, the critical explanation or interpretation of a text.

Judie ElAttar, an 8-year-old third-grader at David Fairchild Elementary School in Miami, was the youngest participant Wednesday. She wore two bee ponytails and a bee-themed flared dress. This was the third year in a row that she qualified.

In 2022, she lost in the third round. In 2023, she lost in the second round. This year she made it to the fifth round, until she lost with “gnatcatcher”, a type of bird.

When she forgot the silent “g,” her father, Tamer ElAttar, met her at the side of the stage and hugged her. Her mother, who also coaches her, was praying outside the room.

“We are proud. So proud,” said Tamer ElAttar.

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Zoe Quiñones, a 10-year-old fourth-grader also from David Fairchild Elementary School, remained positive in the face of defeat: “Thank you for the opportunity,” she told the judges with a smile. “I’ll be back next year.

Some students received kisses and hi-fives as they met their loved ones in the audience.

Martin Cardona, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at Ada Merritt Elementary Center in Miami, received words of encouragement. He participated in the Herald’s Bee for the first time this year and was the second-youngest participant on Wednesday.

When he misspelled “compensable,” an adjective to describe what can be compensated for, his father, Alex Cardona, put his hand around his shoulder and whispered in his ear, “You did a great job.”

Oli Nava, from Doral Academy Charter Middle School, is comforted by her mother after misspelling her word during the first round of the Miami Herald Miami-Dade/Monroe County Spelling Bee.Oli Nava, from Doral Academy Charter Middle School, is comforted by her mother after misspelling her word during the first round of the Miami Herald Miami-Dade/Monroe County Spelling Bee.

Oli Nava, from Doral Academy Charter Middle School, is comforted by her mother after misspelling her word during the first round of the Miami Herald Miami-Dade/Monroe County Spelling Bee.

At 11:30 am, at the start of round six, eight spellers remained on stage, with four red, blue and yellow balloon towers.

Sanchez-Izquierdo won around 12:30 p.m

Orlando Bodes, a fifth-grader at Archimedean Academy in Kendale Lakes, took second place.

James Reese, an eighth-grade student at Aventura City Of Excellence Charter School, took third place. It was his fourth time participating in the Herald’s Bee.

Orlando Bodes, of Archimedean Academy, left, smiles at James Reese, of Aventura City Of Excellence CS, after Reese placed third in the Miami Herald Miami-Dade/Monroe County Spelling Bee.  Bodes then took second place.Orlando Bodes, of Archimedean Academy, left, smiles at James Reese, of Aventura City Of Excellence CS, after Reese placed third in the Miami Herald Miami-Dade/Monroe County Spelling Bee.  Bodes then took second place.

Orlando Bodes, of Archimedean Academy, left, smiles at James Reese, of Aventura City Of Excellence CS, after Reese placed third in the Miami Herald Miami-Dade/Monroe County Spelling Bee. Bodes then took second place.

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