After grappling with a myriad of challenging vocabulary words, a Syosset eighth-grader earned a shot at a national title when she took home first prize at Sunday’s Long Island Regional Spelling Bee at Hofstra University.

Rika Mizoguchi, 13, who attends H.B. Thompson Middle School, scored a win in the annual contest by correctly spelling the word “adnate” after two hours in the 17th round of finals. She will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., where she will test her spelling prowess against hundreds of other regional winners.

“I just felt really nervous, stressed and excited at the same time,” Mizoguchi said. “ It’s hard to represent Long Island.”

Earlier in the day, Mizoguchi and 35 other contestants advanced to the finals after they were winnowed from 125 contestants from Nassau and Suffolk counties. The students ranged from fourth- to eighth-graders, all of whom had placed first at spelling competitions within their schools.

Scores from a written test and a preliminary round were added to rank the students. The words became increasingly difficult, said Melissa Connolly, organizer and Hofstra vice president for university relations.

“You know coming in that it’s going to be a challenge,” Connolly said. “Only one person emerges.”

The words were chosen by a panel of four judges using Scripps National lists, and read in a random order. Assistant professor Ethna Laye served as head judge and assistant professor Jeffrey Morosoff read the words and answered questions about their definitions and languages of origin.

Students wait to hear Alex Gao from the Abbey Lane...

Students wait to hear Alex Gao from the Abbey Lane School spell during the Long Island Regional Spelling Bee held at Hostra University in Uniondale, Sunday, March 13, 2016. Credit: Steve Pfost

Two other assistant professors, Yvonne Stephens and Lisa M. Dresner, served as record keeper and ringer, school officials said.

The judges, all of whom teach at Hofstra, said they were impressed with the talent and endurance of Sunday’s competitors.

“I wouldn’t have even been able to spell some of those words. They were a particularly well-prepared group of spellers,” said judge Dresner. “Good things await in D.C.”

Though not all the participants could reach the microphone, each student had an opportunity to showcase his or her spelling skills. Sheryl Lin, 14, of Island Trees Middle School, ultimately won second place. As an eighth-grader, this was her last shot at the competition, but she said she was proud of her performance.

“I’m still so happy,” said Lin, “I studied thousands of words.”


Mizoguchi will be representing Long Island at the National Spelling Bee in May, and said she plans to prepare by studying vocabulary lists, Latin and Greek roots, and perusing the dictionary.

“It’s challenging; having the chance to compete, to see my worth and see if I can stand against other smart people,” Mizoguchi said.

The final spelling words

Adnate- (noun) grown to a usually unlike part especially along a margin

Formicary - (noun) an ant nest

Diurnal - (adjective) recurring every day

Nicaraguan - (adjective) native of Nicaragua, a country in Central America bordering on the Pacific & the Caribbean

Visigothic - (noun) a member of the western division of the Goths

Inosculate - (verb) join; unite

Amethyst - (noun) a clear purple or bluish-purple stone that is used as a gem; a medium purple color

Cruciform - (adjective) in the shape of a cross

Subclavian - (adjective) of, relating to, being, or inserted into a part (as an artery, vein, or nerve) located under the clavicle

Threptic - (adjective) of or relating to the feeding or rearing of offspring especially among ants or other social insects

Parquet - (verb) to make of parquetry

Source: Merriam Webster Dictionary

— Compiled by Laura Figueroa

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