San Diego Union-Tribune

May 30, 2001

Jamul speller advances to bee's second round


WASHINGTON -- With a look of confidence and composure, 13-year-old Morgan Diefenbach of Jamul faced a phalanx of cameras, a nationwide television audience and a crowd of hundreds, while keeping her eyes and her smile on her father and grandmother.

"I wasn't really nervous," she said.

When the eighth-grader from Oak Grove Middle School went before the
microphone last night in the first round of the 74th annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington, she drew the word "paragouin."

With her hands tucked in her back pocket and without a pause or a
hesitation, she intoned, "p-a-r-a-g-o-u-i-n."

Morgan just went for it, not asking for the word's definition or origin.

"I was pretty confident about the word," she said. "I'm really relieved because I thought I would get something really weird."

After spelling the word correctly, Morgan sighed with relief, smiled at her
father, Andy, and grandmother, Martha, and sat back down to join the other successful round-one spellers.

Like many participants, Morgan didn't use the final moments before the event to study.

"I haven't been over-studying," she said just hours before competition. "You kind of know what you know. I see a lot of people doing that, and I think it's a mistake."

The champion of this year's spelling bee will receive $10,000 from the
Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, along with prizes from Encyclopaedia Britannica and Merriam-Webster. All contestants will receive a commemorative watch from the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, as well as $50 to $10,000.

The competition concludes tomorrow.