Boston Latin student the 1st girl to win city’s spelling bee

Boston Latin School seventh-grader Ina Beinborn, 13, of Mission Hill, spelled “schnauzer” Saturday to become the first girl to win the spelling bee championship since the Boston Centers for Youth and Families launched the contest six years ago, according to its organizers.

Ina asked the judges for the origin, definition, and use of each word she spelled, tracing the letters on her palm as she said them.

She won a colossal dictionary from Merriam-Webster, a one-year subscription to the Encyclopaedia Britannica online, a $100 savings bond, and a weeklong trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, May 25 to June 1, outside Washington, D.C., for her and one of her parents.


Nineteen of 27 spellers from Boston schools who sat on taupe chairs in the Boston Public Library’s Rabb Lecture Hall in Copley Square Saturday morning were girls, a shift from previous years when the genders were more balanced, event organizer Meagan Seaman said.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff
Winner Ina Beinborn had plenty to smile about after the citywide spelling bee at the Boston Public Library on Saturday.
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“Each year, the competition gets more and more fierce,” said Seaman, the Boston Centers for Youth and Families’ assistant director of program coordination. “And I think this year, the girls really wanted it.”

Seaman said she did not know what the gender breakdown was among the more than 3,000 fourth- to eighth-grade students who participated in their schools’ spelling bees.

About 48 percent of children 10 to 14 years old in Boston are girls, based on 2011 US Census figures.

Ina was sick for two weeks before the competition, her mother said, and had about a week to study.


“I sort of memorized the patterns for all the languages,” said Ina, who has a German father and a Korean mother and speaks both languages at home. “For example, in German, there’s no S-H. It’s S-C-H.”

The strategy helped her with words like “megalopolis,” the Greek-based word for a large city or metropolitan area, and the German-based winning word, “schnauzer.”

Ina said she had only competed in one spelling bee before, when she was in the third grade. She stumbled on the word “gigantic,” spelling it “G-I-G-I-N-T-I-C.’’

“It was a traumatic experience,” she said Saturday, laughing. “It was horrible. But this spelling bee kind of made up for it.”

Crystal Sun, an eighth-grader from the Warren-Prescott K-8 School in Charlestown, came in second after misspelling “sevruga,” a type of caviar.


Third-place finisher Travora Senecharles, an eighth-grader at the Richard J. Murphy School in Dorchester, said she spent a week studying with her friend, Kiah Daviega.

The two focused on words with Italian and Greek roots, which Travora said she felt uncomfortable with at first.

Travora made it to the ninth round, breezing through words like “falsetto” and “meticulous.” She struck out on the Hawaiian word for shaman, “kahuna,” spelling it with a c.

“You’re gonna have to watch ‘SpongeBob’ more often,” Kiah told her after the competition.

Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at