Salisbury Middle six-grader wins Regional Spelling Bee

Sixth-grader Maya Matava of Hebron is the 2016 champion of the Maryland Eastern Shore Regional Spelling Bee.

The 12-year-old representing Salisbury Middle School emerged the winner on Saturday after 90 minutes, demonstrating her ability to spell as well as define words flawlessly over 16 rounds.

The winning word was “herbivore” after Maya correctly spelled “empanada” to put herself in a position to win the event.

The runner-up was Lochlyn Carmean, 11, a Fruitland Intermediate School fifth-grader who dueled Maya head-to-head for three rounds before stumbling on the word “stipple.”

Both spellers were matched word-for-word for five rounds by eight-year-old Ayati Sangwan, a soft-spoken fifth-grader from North Salisbury Elementary School.

Maya will represent a four-county region – Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester – at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington this May.

The University of Maryland Eastern Shore sponsors the annual competition as an outreach initiative to local schools, which employ UMES graduates or provide practice-teaching opportunities for university students.

Maya, who competed a year ago as a representative of North Salisbury Elementary, bested 51 other spellers to win the 2016 title, which included a keepsake medallion and Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.

For the first time, the Regional Bee at UMES included a home schooled student and two Worcester County competitors who attend Snow Hill Middle School.

After the competition, Maya told those offering congratulations she was nervous under bright lights in the Fitzgerald Center for the Performing Arts.

Her body language on stage, however, belied that assertion. She strode to the microphone confidently, used one hand as a tablet to “write” the word with the other, just as many national-level competitors do, and rarely hesitated as she plucked off each word presented to her with ease.

“I was the one who was nervous,” her mother, Lynn Matava, said. “I’m not sure this has sunk in for her or me, yet.”

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