LOOKS BRIGHT: Ryan Tassin spells to perfection

Published 11:45 pm Friday, August 15, 2014

By Stephen Hemelt

LAPLACE — Ryan Tassin isn’t a girl of many words, but she certainly has no problem spelling them.

The sixth grader at LaPlace Elementary School left the competition spellbound at the Southwest Region Youth Conference Bible Bee this summer in Jackson, Miss.

Competing in the junior high division, Bible quiz and spelling bee director Bettye Earby said Ryan finished first in the spelling competition, topping a competitive field that featured children who had advanced through regionals in seven states.

Earby said Ryan earned a trophy and certificate, along with recognition at the national convention.

Still, Ryan’s father Chad Tassin joked, it would have been tough to guess his daughter was the competition’s champion.

“She didn’t seem excited,” he said. “I was like, ‘you just won the spelling bee, smile.’ But, she was just taking it easy.”

Ryan, who is a member of Mt. Nebo Baptist Church of LaPlace, started her journey to the national competition with a first place victory May 31 in the District Bible Spelling Bee Competition at the Central Union Missionary Baptist Association Youth Explosion in Lutcher.

She then took home top honors at the State Rally Competition June 7 in Baton Rouge before capturing first in Jackson July 28 at the national competition.

Mt. Nebo Pastor Augustus Brown said Ryan’s win makes it three years in a row a youth member from the church has won the competition — David Hargrave won the fourth through sixth grade category in 2013 and 2012.

Eileen Lennix, Ryan’s grandmother, said she watches Ryan most afternoons because Ryan’s mother Randi works nights as a nurse.

“I am responsible for a lot of Ryan’s work,” Lennix said. “It was amazing to see her compete, because her mama, dad and I pushed her.

“The sky is the limit. (Ryan) is awesome at spelling and very smart. She is shy, but she doesn’t mind competing if asked. When she does have to compete, she goes all the way in.”

Ryan puts in a lot of time practicing, Lennix said, adding once she gets words down, Ryan never forgets. Like most 11-year-olds, Ryan enjoys watching television and playing basketball with her cousins, their battles taking place on the family’s backyard court.

For Ryan, the best part of the spelling bees involves traveling to competition venues and meeting competitors from different states.

“It was fun that I could travel all the way over (to Baton Rouge and Jackson) just to compete,” she said.

“We went to the mall and to a restaurant. The girl that came in second place (in Baton Rouge) was nice. She was a good sport even though she didn’t win.”

Ryan said her competition technique involves pronouncing the word to herself once it’s said out loud, adding when she does not immediately know how to spell a word, she’ll ask the judge for a definition to buy time.

She sees more competitions on her horizon.

“I want to keep doing this because I learn a lot from it,” Ryan said. “It’s a new experience.”