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Anticipation weighed heavily on three girls from Los Alamos on Aug 28. Annija Westfall, Marija Westfall and Sarah Hutchens clutched their Build A Bear stuffed animals as they listened to the announcer call their names as contestants for the national qualifying round in the New Mexico Bible Bee, held in Los Alamos.
The girls competed in the 7-18 year old category and spent their summer memorizing and comprehending 250-800 Bible verses, Greek words and the entire Book of the Colossians.
As the girls heard others names being called, they wondered if they had done well. They also hoped they had done well enough to qualify for the nationals in November outside Chicago.
Their placements were read and Marija placed first, while Hutchens placed second and Annija placed third. They breathed a sigh of relief, but that was short lived as they faced the final round.
The trio waited, clutched their stuffed animals between rounds and recited verses. Finally, the results were announced: Hutchens, 8, won the final round and the New Mexico Bee, while Marija, 8, placed second; and Annija, 10, placed third after a tie breaker.
On Sept. 1, the scores across the nation were released. Only the top 100 finishers in each age division would be invited to go to nationals. All three of the Los Alamos girls did well, but not all would make the cut for nationals. Annija placed 25th in oral presentation and 204th overall; Hutchens made a strong showing at 137th overall; and Marija was ecstatic to find out she qualified for nationals, ranking 89th overall and sixth in oral presentation. Marija is the first child to qualify for a national Bee from Los Alamos.
“She has to have complete and total comprehension. She has to know about 200-250 Greek words,” Vivian Westfall, Marija’s and Annija’s mother said. “She has to know the historical context of them as well.”
Vivian is proud of her children and said they’ve accomplished a great deal for a couple that have been home schooled and never had to take a test.
“It’s given them a nice work ethic and the ability to put one foot in front of the other,” Vivian said.
Marija said she is looking forward to staying in a hotel, but more importantly, she said, “I want to win.”
The Westfall family will travel to Chicago for the event and plan to do a bit of sightseeing.
“We’re planning on going to the Sears Tower, museums and Lake Michigan,” Vivian said.
Also qualifying for nationals was Matthew Evans, 16, of Albuquerque. Evans has represented New Mexico in the Scripps National Spelling Bee five times, finishing fifth in his last appearance. The Evans family has represented New Mexico a total of seven times at the Bee.
The expectations on Matthew were great and he did not disappoint, qualifying for nationals by finishing seventh overall.
The overall winner in the Junior Division in New Mexico was Katie Delgado, 10, of White Rock. Delgado was one of the youngest in the nation in the more rigorous Junior Division. Although making a strong showing, Delgado did not qualify for nationals.
“With many children dropping out of the competition, congratulations need to go out to all contestants who persevered to the end in a very challenging competition,” Vivian said.
She also said community support, particularly from Grace Vineyard Christian Fellowship, the Church of Christ and Bryce Avenue Presbyterian Church was invaluable.
“Many thanks go to those who participated in the fundraising efforts on behalf of these future leaders. Fundraising efforts will continue to support national qualifiers,” she said.
Donations may be designated through Grace Vineyard Christian Fellowship, 1183C Diamond Dr., Los Alamos. They may be designated for either Matthew Evans or Marija Westfall.