Dorothy McElhinney Middle School seventh-grader Dominique Raymundo, 12, beat out 29 other students Wednesday night to take first place in the 2013 District Spelling Bee.
The two top spellers in grades fourth through eighth from each of the Murrieta Valley Unified School District’s 11 elementary schools and four middle schools went head to head in the nearly two-hour grueling event held at Thompson Middle School.
Dominique's win means she will represent the district at the Riverside County Spelling Bee on March 20 at the Moreno Valley Conference and Recreation Center.
She placed third in last year's District Bee.
"I just knew that if I worked hard and did my best, I would win," said Dominique, who as the first-place winner was given a $100 gift card to Barnes and Noble Booksellers.
She and her mother, Amy Raymundo, studied together; her mother quizzed her for several weeks over the holiday break.
A rules change last year by Scripps Howard, which coordinates the national spelling bee each year, meant students had no list to study from as they had in past years. Instead, they were given a similar words list as well as a website to study on.
"I’m just so proud; I’m glad the hard work paid off," Amy Raymundo said.
Runner-up and Thompson Middle School sixth-grader Olivia Landis, 11, felt the same. A former student senate president, Olivia attributed her success to studying hard.
The girls battled it out in round 12, with Dominique successfully spelling "pacifism." Olivia misspelled "wainscot," dropping her to second place.
Trevor Reese from Tovashal Elementary was invited back onto the stage after challenging the word "bequeath" in round six. He placed third overall, misspelling "semolina" in round nine.
"We are really proud of all of the contestants," said Jennifer Counts, district spelling bee coordinator. "They all worked really hard, these were no easy words."
Last year, Thompson Middle School's Shruti Amin won the Riverside County Bee and went on to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee near Washington, D.C.
Both Dominique and Olivia were happy to have made it so far in Wednesday's bee, and each said they had the perfect spot for their trophies, a bookshelf in their room.
They had another thing in common: both had to head home after the event to tackle their nightly homework.