Bee winner doesn't expect to repeat

LAWRENCEVILLE - Sonam Vashi didn't even expect to make the competition. So when the Pinckneyville Middle School eighth-grader won the county spelling bee, she was pretty surprised.

But don't expect a repeat performance.

"My expectations haven't changed," the 13-year-old said. "I don't think I'm going to win."

Sonam will compete against 10 other Gwinnett students, along with those from 18 other school systems, at the regionwide district spelling bee Saturday at Collins Hill High School. But the girl who won the bee by correctly spelling "legitimacy," then "platypus" said she isn't as motivated as some of her competitors.

Unlike other students, who spent hours drilling and memorizing words, Sonam didn't do much to prepare for the last bee. She hasn't done anything extra this time, either.

"I haven't studied as much as other people have," she said. "I don't want it as much as other people. It's a great honor, but I'm not driven."

Even though Sonam said she isn't passionate about spelling, there are some things that she is dedicated to. Those include her piano lessons and the serialized TV shows "Heroes" and "Lost." She also likes to hang out and talk to her friends and go shopping at The Forum on Peachtree Parkway.

She can spell because she can read, Sonam said, and has simply continued reading to amass her vocabulary.

Right now, Sonam said, she is in the middle of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." She was reading "The Diary of Anne Frank" when she took the title at the county bee.

After her win, Sonam said, her teachers singled her out to congratulate her and her name appeared on the morning announcements. The attention was slightly embarrassing, but Sonam said she is looking forward to the cheering section her friends promised they would create Saturday morning.

Sonam said she might watch "Spellbound," a spelling bee documentary, tonight to prepare for the competition. She said not being nervous helped her last time, and she expects that to be the case again.

"I just know I'll do my best," she said. "I thought I was going to get out on the written portion. I was very surprised to be one of the top 11 in the whole county."