Marly Santora is going back to Washington, D.C.
The 13-year-old Komarek School eighth-grader said the magic words – “ascetic” and “temerity” – on Feb. 22 at the Chicago Suburban Spelling Championship at Mannheim School in Melrose Park and punched her ticket to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.
It’ll be Marly’s second consecutive trip to the national bee, and she’s just the second girl from Illinois to make a repeat appearance at the national competition.
“I think the competition this year was tougher than last year,” said Marly. “I was nervous, but when [her opponent in the finals] missed and I got my word, I was really happy, because I knew it.”
In the audience, Marly’s dad, Gerry Santora, was a wreck.
“I found it to be much more gut-wrenching,” said Gerry Santora. “In the end, Marly was really well prepared.”
Marly, a North Riverside resident, is a seasoned veteran of the spelling bee circuit. She won her first Komarek School spelling bee as a third-grader. That year at the suburban championships she sat next to Rose Sloan, the state’s last back-to-back national qualifier. Marly has won Komarek School’s spelling bee every year since, except for 2010, and in 2011 was the Chicago suburban champion for the first time.
Seeing Sloan win made up Marly’s mind.
“When she won it, I said, ‘I want to do that someday,'” Marly said.
Marly was knocked out of the National Spelling Bee last year in the preliminary rounds. She responded by hitting the books – ones specifically dealing with Latin and Greek roots – to improve her skills.
“Most of the top spellers know most of the roots,” said Marly. “I do think it’ll help.”
The National Spelling Bee will be held May 27 to June 1 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., just outside the nation’s capital.
Marly said she’s looking forward to meeting again with her fellow competitors from last year and taking part in the many events at the National Spelling Bee. And, of course, there’s the competition itself – “the time to go up on that stage that I’ve watched since I was a little kid.”
This story has been changed to correct the number of times Marly Santora has won the Komarek School spelling bee.