New Arizona spelling champ gearing up for National Spelling Bee

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- There's a new top speller in town. Sumaita Mulk of Goodyear took top honors at the 13th annual AEF Arizona Spelling Bee over the weekend.

The 12-year-old will represent Arizona at the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. May 27-June 1.

Sumaita, a seventh-grader at the Herberger Young Scholars Academy in Glendale, spent about 14 hours studying in the week leading up to the state spelling bee. All of that studying paid off. Sumaita won on the word oubliette, which is a type of dungeon with an opening only at the top. It French, it means "forgotten place."

The road to the National Spelling Bee started back in December when schools had qualifying bees. District bees took place in January, followed by county and regional bees in February. Then it was time for state.

Sumaita will will join 276 other spellers vying for the title of 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion, and she couldn't be more excited.

"[I'm going to] keep studying and hope I don't fall out the the first round," Sumaita told 3TV's Scott Pasmore and Kaley O'Kelley the Monday after her state win. She told them the hardest word she's ever studied is schadenfreude while the easiest word she had to spell in competition was Islamic.

Sumaita, who came in 18th in the state bee last year, said the first couple of rounds of competition can be nerve-wracking.

The preliminary round of the 85th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee is May 30; semifinals are the morning of May 31, with the championship finals taking place that night.

In addition to her trip to the National Spelling Bee, Sumaita also won an $800 cash prize, as well as a copy of Webster's Third New International Dictionary and a Rosetta Stone language course.

The prizes for the national champion include, among other things, a $30,000 cash prize and an engraved trophy from Scripps, a $4,50 savings bond and complete reference library from Merriam-Webster, and a $5,000 scholar ship from Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation.

The 2011 national champion, Sukanya Roy of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., won on the word cymotrichous.

Since the bee's inception in 1925, only one Arizona speller has won the title. Elizabeth Hess won on the word soubrette in 1953.