Coarsegold Girl Heads to National Spelling Bee

5/22/2008 Fresno, CA "Riesling.... R-i-e-s-l-i-n-g... Rickettsiosis... R-i-c-k-e-t-t-s-i-o-s-i-s."

Tia Thomas makes it sound so easy... "r-i-y-a-d-h... Correct. "

The 13-year-old will be heading back to Washington D.C. next week for her fifth and final chance to win the National Spelling Bee. "Mom and I have been going thru a list of words from foreign languages like French, Persian, Russian; any language pretty much," said Tia.

It was one of those foreign words that stumped Tia last year.

Tia said, "I knew the two words before me, I knew a bunch after me, I just didn't know that one word."

So she plans to be even more prepared this year, "I'm studying all day every day."

Tia and her mom have spent hours studying thousands of words from the Bee's consolidated word list. "It has about 24,000 words and I've tested her on pretty much all those words; and it's grueling, very grueling," said Pam Thomas, Tia's mom and coach.

In her many years of competing, Tia always sticks to a technique to help her on stage. "I ask for language of origin, definition then alternate pronunciations." But mostly she relies on a gift she discovered early on. "I have always been good at memorizing. I used to beat my mom at memory games when I was three."

Tia has an album full of pictures of her four trips to the nationals. She has a picture at the White House where she met First Lady Laura Bush and another picture with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a roomful of trophies.

Mom and the rest of the family are proud of Tia's accomplishments and proud of her perseverance. "That is one of the things that I admire about her, she has this stick-to-it-iveness that she doesn't throw in the towel."

Give-up? Those are two words Tia doesn't care to spell. "My goal last year was to make it to ABC and make it into the top 10. Then my main goal this year is to win."

After the spelling bee, Tia plans to give the dictionary a rest and have an all-week "video week."

You can see the championship finals on ABC-30 next Friday, May 30th starting at 8pm.

Jared Caballes, an eighth grader from Visalia will also be competing in the national spelling bee.

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