Boston Latin School seventh-grader Ina Beinborn, 13, of Mission Hill, spelled “schnauzer” early this afternoon to become the first girl to win the spelling bee championship since the Boston Centers for Youth and Families launched the contest six years ago, according to its organizers.
Ina asked the judges for the origin, definition, and use of each word she spelled, tracing the letters on her palm as she said them.
She won a colossal dictionary from Merriam-Webster, a one-year online subscription to the Encyclopædia Britannica online, a $100 savings bond, and a weeklong trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, May 25 to June 1 outside Washington, D.C., for her and one of her parents.
Nineteen of 27 spellers from Boston schools who sat on taupe chairs in the Boston Public Library’s Rabb Lecture Hall in Copley Square this morning were girls, a shift from previous years, when the genders were more balanced, event organizer Meagan Seaman said.
“Each year, the competition gets more and more fierce,” said Seaman, the Boston Centers for Youth and Families’ assistant director of program coordination. “And I think this year, the girls really wanted it.”
Crystal Sun, an eighth-grader from the Warren-Prescott K-8 School in Charlestown, came in second after misspelling “sevruga,” a type of caviar.
Travora Senecharles, an eighth-grader at the Richard J. Murphy School in Dorchester, stumbled on the Hawaiian word for shaman, “kahuna.”
Ina was sick for two weeks before the competition, her mother said, and only had about a week to study.
“I sort of memorized the patterns for all the languages,” said Ina, who has a German father and a Korean mother and speaks both languages at home. “For example, in German, there’s no S-H. It’s S-C-H.”
The strategy helped her with words like “megalopolis,” the Greek-based word for a large city or metropolitan area, and the German-based winning word, “schnauzer.”
Ina said she had only competed in one spelling bee before, when she was in the third grade. She stumbled on the word “gigantic”—G-I-G-I-N-T-I-C.
“It was a traumatic experience,” she said today, laughing. “It was horrible. But this spelling bee kind of made up for it.”Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.