Spellbound

LIHUE — Fred Adella took away one major lesson from the Hawaii State Spelling Bee.

Don’t forget to practice the easy words prior to taking part in the competition.

“I studied more on the hard words,” the Waimea Canyon Middle School seventh-grader said after he made it to round seven in the bee Friday night, where he was eliminated on the word “friable,” which he classified as one he shouldn’t have missed.

When you focus on the difficult ones — and there were plenty of those, too — you “tend to forget how to spell the easy ones,” he said.

Adella was ninth out of the 14-student field, which bettered his performance from last year, when he was the first contestant out in his first attempt on the state stage.

Along the way, he nailed potential pitfalls “dross,” “adobe,” “ghoul,” “spangled,” “treachery” and properly defined “soviet,” which is an elected local, district, or national council in the former Soviet Union.

As for friable, which means to crumble easily, he had two spellings in his mind, but went with a y instead of an i.

“If I’d asked for the language of origin, I would have gotten it right,” he said, pointing out that its Latin roots were a dead giveaway because they typically use an i, not a y.

“It went pretty good,” said Adella, who finished second in the district contest. “I tried to be confident but inside I felt nervous because it’s still competition.”

His mother, Sheryl Adella, was proud of her son’s performance. His father is Wilfredo Adella of Eleele.

Audience members were asked to keep quiet after each spelling, so Sheryl said she celebrated each correct spelling silently.

“I’m like, ‘Oh thank you, Lord,” she said of her reactions. “We told him, just do his best, and enjoy the moment. Going to the state is a big opportunity already and we’re so proud of him.”

Leila Nelson, Kapaa Middle School eighth-grader, made it to the final four in her bracket of 14.

The word that got her was “hastilude.” It’s a generic term used in the Middle Ages to refer to many kinds of martial games.

She spelled it with an a instead of an i. She applied the same lesson that Adella did. I’s are usually used to join two parts of a word.

“I should have known,” she said.

That said, she knocked out words such as “Chimichanga,” “llama,” “mediate,” “pique,” and “pretzel” along the way.

“I did OK, I’m glad I didn’t win because nationals is way too stressful,” she said, adding that her anxiety was eased by her soccer teammates showing up to support her on Oahu. She was also playing in a tournament there over the weekend.

Spelling, the 14-year-old said, is more pressure packed than taking the field in a big game.

“I guess because it’s all up to you,” the Kauai District spelling champ said. “You don’t have a team to rely on.”

Her parents are Jeff Nelson and Christy Matsumura.

“I’m very proud of my daughter,” Jeff said. “To put in all the work without having to be told, it makes you proud.”

As for her gift for spelling, Leila said she likes to read — fiction and mysteries, mostly. Jeff, who attended the event, said there were a few words that he would have spelled incorrectly, had he been on stage.

“Oh, OK,” he said he thought on a few occasions. “I would have been out before the 10-year-old. It’s very humbling.”

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