MOUNT VERNON — By correctly spelling “placebo,” first-time Skagit Regional Spelling Bee contestant Anu Noori triumphed over 28 other spellers, earning herself a place at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

As soon as she got off the stage Saturday, the Hill Creek Christian fifth-grader got on a video call with her older brother at his boarding school who told her how proud he was.

Noori was beaming.

Her mother, who prefers to go by Mrs. Noori, looked on with tears in her eyes.

“It means the world,” she said of her daughter’s win. “She worked very, very hard.”

Held at Skagit Valley College’s Phillip Taro Theatre, the 41st annual competition featured students in grades four through eight from schools in Skagit, San Juan and north Snohomish counties.

The first round began with many recognizable words, though a handful, such as kith, anvil and bonanza ended some students’ chances to compete at the national level.

Those who misspelled a word made their way back to the audience where many received high-fives and hugs from their parents.

Come round five, the playing field had been cut to 14 spellers.

The competition continued to mount as spellers were handed increasingly difficult words, but Noori, second-place finisher Josiah Brooks of Port Susan Middle School and third-place finisher Aubree Jolly of La Conner Middle School persevered.

By round 14, they were the last spellers on the stage.

Each one took their time when they were given a word, even on ones that sounded easy on face value.

Brooks used his index finger to write out “warranty” on his arm before correctly spelling the word, while Jolly closed her eyes as she slowly spelled out “decimation.”

When Noori made it to the 16th round with “liquesce,” the crowd let out sounds of awe.

“I don’t even know what that means,” an audience member whispered.

The soon-to-be champion seized her victory four words later by correctly spelling chia, chaplain, colloid and placebo.

Jolly went out with “inveigh” and Brooks with “inerrancy.”

Mrs. Noori was on her feet when her daughter won and she remained standing as the winner spoke of her love of spelling.

“(I like) the patterns,” she said. “In different languages there are certain patterns, and from them you can piece together the words.”

The national bee will be held May 26 through June 1 near Washington, D.C.

— Reporter Leah Allen: 360-416-2149,, Twitter: @Leah_SVH

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