CHICAGO - A group of fourth graders in Pilsen can now call themselves National Champions.
Maestra Nohemi Ruiz's fourth grade class at St. Procopius School took home first place in a first-ever Catholic Schools' Spelling Bee in Spanish.
"It was so close," said fourth grader Ana Gonzalez. "We won by one point. In the last round it was a tie, and we beat them — just by one point."
Friday morning, the tournament coordinator from the University of Notre Dame presented Maestra Ruiz's class with the trophy. That presentation was followed by a victory parade down the hallways of the school, where the student body cheered enthusiastically.
"It's really amazing and fun and crazy," said Gonzalez.
Unlike more conventional spelling bees, students competed as a team in the virtual Spelling Bee, which was held in mid-October.
St. Procopius found themselves in a first-place tie with a Catholic school in San Antonio, Texas. The final round included five difficult Spanish words: quinceañera, cempasúchil, zarigüeya, vehementemente, and fosforescente.
Organizers say the Spelling Bee was such a success it will now become an annual event, so the team from St. Procopius will head into next year as defending champions.
"It'll be a little easier, cause we've already been through it!" said fourth grader Lucy Alegria.
"We've had principals from across the country email us and say, 'We want in next year,'" said Clare Roach of the University of Notre Dame, who facilitated the Spelling Bee and presented the trophy.
"It's just a great accomplishment," said St. Procopius Principal Dr. Robert Bassett "I know the hard work that they all put in, and it was something that they all have earned."