It's no small coincidence that Rachael Cundey's victory in the Scripps Howard Regional Spelling Bee came in the same week that schools celebrated Read Across America.
"Her biggest thing is she is a voracious reader," says her father, Heath Cundey.
Rachael, a 10-year-old South Columbia Elementary School fourth-grader, is Columbia County's youngest bee champion since before she was born. In fact, Rachael's victory Saturday is only the second time in 10 years that the regional spelling bee winner was so young - with the last time, in 2002, representing the first of four wins in a row by home-schooled spelling phenom Joe Shepherd.
Of those previous 10 winners, it's worth noting that four were from Columbia County - which is pretty phenomenal when you consider Shepherd held the title for four of those 10 years, with four others held by Columbia County residents.
Rachael also is the rare public-school student to win the regional bee; home-schoolers have taken the region title in all but four of the past 10 years.
It's reading that her family credits with giving her the edge in spelling; Rachael was devouring college-level books by third grade. Exposure to so many words is a key to good spelling.
South Columbia is planning to celebrate Rachael Cundey Day today in honor of their champion. In addition to cheering their classmate, though, the school also is seeking donations to help defray the cost for Rachael's family to travel with her to the Scripps Howard national bee in May in Washington, D.C.
If you'd like to help, call the school at (706) 863-3220.
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