APPLE VALLEY • Zerin Wetzel's love for books paid off big Saturday.
The Fort Irwin Middle School eighth-grader won a trip to Washington, D.C., and other prizes after taking first place in the 10th annual Daily Press and Desert Dispatch Spelling Bee.
Zerin correctly spelled "tyrannical" in the final round of the bee at the Desert Mountain Education Center, which was packed with dozens of competitors and family members from across the Victor Valley and Barstow areas.
Baldy Mesa Elementary School fifth-grader Devin Hendrajaya finished second, and Wetzel's Fort Irwin Middle School classmate Isabel Knott took third place.
Zerin wins a berth in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, held May 28 to 30 in the Washington, D.C., area.
All three top finishers admitted they didn't study much for the bee until the night before — or even the morning of — but all three said they enjoy reading.
Susan Wetzel said her daughter "reads all the time."
Though she's excited about the trip, Zerin said it won't be her first journey on an airplane.
"Army people move a lot," said Zerin, who said she's lived on the base for about three years. Her father is a U.S. Army orthodontist at Fort Irwin and will accompany Zerin to Washington, Susan Wetzel said.
Zerin also earned the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award (a U.S. mint proof set valued at $100), a yearlong membership to Encyclopedia Britannica's online service and a Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Devin won a dictionary and a $20 Barnes & Noble gift certificate, and Isabel received a $20 Barnes & Noble gift certificate.
The bee was sponsored by the Daily Press and Desert Dispatch Newspapers in Education Program. The Desert/Mountain Special Education Local Plan Area donated the use of its building.
The bee was organized by Daily Press circulation customer service and operations manager Barbara Miller, and Daily Press operations clerk Jasmond Nelson assisted with the event.
The judges were Johanna Kok of High Desert Web Solutions, Daily Press advertising representative Michael Karen and Debra McCaffrey of Soroptimist Victor Valley.
Editor's note: Kris Reilly served as the pronouncer for the bee.