Thirteen-year-old Ana Guadalupe Villagomez has never traveled to the mainland United States. But her first trip there will be for a big reason.
Ana is competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland, during Memorial Day week. To get there, she will be traveling farther than any of her fellow competitors.
The seventh-grader is from Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, just above Guam.
She qualified for the national bee by besting 39 other spellers at the March 14 regional competition for Guam and the CNMI. Her winning word was “pugilist.”
Ana previously participated in spelling bees when she was in the fourth and fifth grade and made it to the regional competition on Guam in 2019 and 2020, but this is the first time she has won the regional competition.
When she heads to the Washington, D.C., area, she will be spelling against 233 other students from all over the U.S., and from Canada, Germany, Ghana, the Bahamas, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
This year is also the first fully in-person Scripps National Spelling Bee since 2019, after COVID-19 canceled the 2020 contest, and the 2021 competition was partly virtual.
Ana says she spends about two hours a day studying for the spelling bee. Her dad, Rich, and her 11-year-old sister, Guadalupe, who also participates in spelling bees, are her primary quizzers. But she said that her entire family, which includes her mom, Jen, two other sisters and two brothers, are all very supportive. Her teachers at Grace Christian Academy in Garapan, Saipan, have also encouraged and helped her.
To help her remember words, she will look them up online to find images and videos that help them stick in her mind. She also focuses on their pronunciation and definition.
Ana says one of her favorite words currently is “oriel,” an architectural term for a type of bay window, which she thinks “looks pretty.”
Her love of reading has also helped her in her spelling endeavors, and she says her favorite books are the Harry Potter series. Luna Lovegood stands out as her favorite character.
“I like her personality,” Ana said. “She’s very bubbly and nice to everyone and she’s smart.”
Spelling isn’t the only thing Ana manages outside of school. She also plays the piano and the ukulele, and she started competing on her middle school volleyball team this year.
Unfortunately, attending the spelling bee will mean that Ana has to miss the high school graduation of her oldest brother, Richard. Her aunt, Deborah Moore, will be chaperoning her to the mainland U.S. as her parents stay behind for the graduation.
However, she’s excited about all the activities leading up to and surrounding the national bee. Organizers have planned a group mural project, coding academy, virtual reality camp, creative writing workshop, D.C.-area tours and other fun activities.
Ana said it would be amazing to get to tour the White House. The “Hamilton” fan is also looking forward to being in such a historically rich area.
Ana and her aunt will be flying to the national competition via Japan and New Jersey, and will arrive a day ahead of orientation to help adjust to the time change.
Japan happens to be one of her favorite places, and she has visited there twice, including a stop at Tokyo Disneyland. Going hand in hand with her love of Japan is her love of sushi.
She also hopes to travel more as she gets older, including to Europe, and aspires to one day be a dentist. But for now, she’s thrilled to be heading to Maryland for the Scripps National Spelling Bee and getting to know her fellow spellers.
“I’m excited to meet all of them and hopefully make new friends,” Ana said. “I’m just really happy to be a part of it and to experience all of this.”
How To Watch The 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee
In its 94th year, the Scripps National Spelling Bee will be televised live on ION and Bounce, with LeVar Burton serving as the host. Both networks are available to cable, streaming and over-the-air television viewers free of charge (enter your zip code on the Bee’s website to find ION in your area). The competition will also be live-streamed on the Bee’s website. The televised semifinals will air on June 1, and the finals will air live on June 2. The events will be held near Washington, D.C.
For more information about the Scripps National Spelling Bee, visit spellingbee.com.
Simplemost and the Scripps National Spelling Bee share a parent company, The EW Scripps Company.