After 22 rounds of spelling, it all came down to oregano.
The word before that, beleaguer, was difficult, Shorewood Intermediate School seventh-grader Zoe Bockhorst said, but she put the letters in their proper order, and followed it up, spelling oregano with ease to win the regional spelling bee competition.
"This year's word was actually quite easy for me to spell," she said, noting last year she got the word thesaurus, and misspelled it thesaurous during regionals.
Correctly spelling 20 words in the regional spelldown like “aristocracy” and “subterfuge," Zoe is now headed to the Badger State Spelling Bee competition on March 23 in Madison.
Shorewood participates in the Scripps National Spelling Bee program, meaning Zoe is one step closer to representing Wisconsin in the national spelling bee, held May 26 through June 1 in Washington, D.C.
Earlier this month, Zoe competed against 28 spellers, mainly sixth through eighth graders, but also two fourth graders from Lake Bluff Elementary and Salam School and a fifth grader from Bayside in regionals. To get to the regional competition, Zoe first competed against others in her class, and then contended in a Shorewood Intermediate School level competition. Lydia Anshus, another seventh grader, was the other representative from SIS at the regional bee.
The study buddies hashed out a couple words from a list off the spelling bee website whenever they found the time. With other obligations, like soccer and piano practice, Zoe wasn't able to study every night.
She wasn't overly confident heading into regionals, but realized once she went deep into the competition she might have a chance.
"I didn't think that I would win until there was only four or five people left, then I thought, I might actually win this thing," she said.
Zoe's mother Tammy Bockhorst said, "I'm very proud of Zoe and Lydia for encouraging each other throughout all of this. The students from Shorewood did very well, overall. Two of the top three were from Shorewood schools."
However, the state competition will pose a new challenge, Zoe explained.
At the state level, coordinators won't provide Zoe with a list to study from, leaving her to find a new way to prepare. She said the spelling bee website has some tips for studying, so that is probably the best option.
"I'm actually scared that I will misspell a word that I know because of my nerves," she said. "But I have to say that I'm excited that I made it this far.
“To go on to the state competition is something that I hadn't even thought of until last year, and now it's become a reality."