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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Tarzana

Zucchini Makes Girl a Spelling Champion

March 16, 2000|INDRANEEL SUR

Mandy Paullada, 9, said she doesn't like the taste of zucchini, but she sure loves the spelling.

In a heated spelling bee round at Woodcrest Elementary School on Wednesday, Mandy emerged as the fourth-grade champion by correctly spelling the green vegetable's name.

"My heart was beating, and there were certain butterflies in my stomach," she said afterward.

She was nicknamed the "Zucchini Queen" by the vice principal at the private elementary school for 170 students from kindergarten to fifth grade.

Contestants in each grade received a list Friday of about 120 words that they were tested on during the annual bee. Only the fourth-grade competitors finished spelling all the words on their list, requiring a special tie-breaker round featuring words that contestants had not studied in advance, teacher Carole Martin said.

Among the words contestants were required to learn were several that would give grown-up spellers pause, including longitude, consonant, kerosene and moccasin.

Parents pursed their lips and leaned forward on three benches as they watched their children compete. Students said they take the bee very seriously, spending several hours studying over the weekend.

"I hardly ate breakfast because I was so nervous," said Danielle Klebanov, 7, whose correct spelling of the word "business" led to her victory in the second-grade round.

Other winners were first-grader Gina Giordano, 7; third-grader Justin Mautner, 9, and fifth-grader Rachel Merzlak, 10. They will be presented with plaques at a school awards ceremony in June.

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