A bright spark from Tauranga will be making a bee-line for the chance to be crowned the country's champion speller.

"Atrophy" was the word that secured Otumoetai College's Megan Lake a spot in the top three at the Spelling Bee Central North Island semifinal in Hamilton on Tuesday night.

Lake had butterflies going into the event, but the final word was one she knew well.

The 14-year-old bookworm put her success down to reading a lot and practising words from previous years.


"It's kind of surreal, I'm kind of nervous about the national competition," she said.

She was one of seven Otumoetai College Year 10 students to compete in the regional event.

The night was nothing short of entertaining and kept competitors on the edge of their seats. Two difficult rounds saw five students from the college knocked out of the running.

Lake and classmate Annabel King hung in there to make it to the final 10 but it was Lake who carried the school name to victory.

English teacher Julie Secker said the students had been practising since April and Lake's classmates were ecstatic to see the competitors whittled down to one of their own.

"There were some hard rounds with really challenging words ... I'm immensely pleased with the students," Secker said.

Competitions like these needed to be kept alive, she said, as "no matter what you do, you will be judged on your spelling ... rightly or wrongly".

She said some students really enjoyed spelling and it was important there was something available to help all interests flourish.


She was not the only one who was impressed. New Zealand Spelling Bee judge Rachel D'Cruz said year-on-year, the bravery and skill students brought to the competition was commendable.

"It's really nice to have a competition not focused on physical prowess," she said.

She said the students were not just good at spelling but had skills in a range of areas, they just happened to be able to spell.

Lake will be one of 200 of the finalists who will compete for the Champion Speller Trophy and $5000 towards their studies.

Her national final game plan?

"Probably still read a lot of books ... so nothing that different," she said.

The finals will be held in Wellington - not by coincidence, the home of the Beehive - on November 2.

Regional final winning words


Megan Lake, Otumoetai College

Zoe Penny, Fraser High School

Janet Guo, Hillcrest High School

Winning words from previous years, national competition

2018 - frankincense

2017 - pusillanimous

2016 - ostensible

2015 - meritocracy

2014 - eugenics

2013 - perestroika

2012 - longitudinal

2011 - conceited

2010 - chrysanthemum

2009 - iterative

2008 - flotilla

2007 - vendetta

2006 - obstreperous

2005 - contiguous