For the second year in a row, 13-year-old Sylvie Lamontagne walked away from the Colorado State Spelling Bee a champion. And for the second year in a row, she will be representing the state in the national competition in May.
Until this year, that wasn’t possible.
Since 1997, Colorado has had a rule that if you win the state spelling bee and go on to compete at the national level, you can’t come back the following year.
“After the 2015 spelling bee I thought that I wasn’t going to be able to do it again,” Lamontagne said. “I wasn’t even studying for the whole summer.”
The rule ended up changing before this year’s competition started, so Lamontagne decided she would try again.
“I did manage to win for the second time,” Lamontagne said. “That’s the first time anybody’s won twice in a row in 20 years, so I guess it does make it more special because that hasn’t been able to happen for a long time.”
She doesn’t take that second chance lightly. It’s only been a day since she won the state competition, but already she has plans to step up her studying for the National Spelling Bee.
“The difficulty level of the words I’m studying is a little bit higher,” Lamontagne said. “The National Spelling Bee’s words are arguably harder.”
The competition will be in May in Washington D.C. The grand prize is $30,000.
“I’m not sure what I’d do with the money, I’d probably save some of it and spend some of it,” she said.
While she has the responsible answer, her father Jeff Lamontagne had the fun one: “Go to Disney World,” he said.
Colorado hasn’t had a national champion since 2002, before Lamontagne was even born. She came in ninth place last year, and hopes to do better this year.
By the way, her winning word on Saturday? Ossifrage. Not only did she know how to spell it, but she knew that it was a type of bird. We had to look it up.