Aine Donohue made St. Rose Grammar School history in December when she won her third-straight school spelling bee, earning a spot in the regional finals this coming spring.
Aine, an eighth-grader from Wall Township, is the first St. Rose student to represent the school at the regional competition held at Monmouth University three years in a row — at least nobody else has ever accomplished that feat in the last 30 years, according to Mary Burns, a third-grade teacher at St. Rose who's moderated the school's spelling bee for as many years.
Two years ago as just a sixth-grader, Aine placed 10th at the regional bee, and perhaps not surpsingly, last year she came in third place. This year she's looking to take first place at the March 12 competition and win a ticket to Washington, D.C. to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.
Aine, as modest as they come, said she doesn't read too many books but she does devote some time to studying the competition's official word list — when she's not participating in the half-dozen other extracurricular activities she's involved with.
“She has a gift for words," Burns said.
And as if being her school's top speller wasn't enough, she participates in organized soccer, softball, cross country, track and dance. And she's also a straight-A student and the student council representative of her class.
It's no wonder she doesn't read too many books — when would she?
"She is certainly a student that applies herself in all academic areas. She’s great in sports. I think she’s such a well-rounded student," Burns said.
Aine's mother Monica said her daughter has been able to juggle all those activities without missing a beat.
“We tell her as long as your grades are good you can do all the other stuff, and she’s always held them up," Donohue said.
And Aine has seemingly done more than just keep her grades up — she takes honors Spanish and math classes at St. Rose High School, Burns said.
To prepare for the competition, Aine meets with Burns once a week after school to study words both on and off the official list.
“I think I studied the most in fifth grade, and now it’s mainly a review of those words and learning other words that aren’t on the list," Aine said.
Students from grades five through eight participate in the annual school spelling bee.
Burns said that she's been amazed by Aine's work ethic and steady improvements during the last three years.
“Aine set her goal way long ago and she has followed through achieving what she set out to achieve," Burns said.
And while nobody is guaranteeing victory, Burns said that she believed Aine has what it takes to finally win the regionals and head to the nation's capital later this year.
“I will come back and tell the faculty and they say, ‘I don’t know if we can do that,'" Burns said regarding their training sessions.