The 12-year-old representing Salisbury Middle School emerged the winner after 90 minutes, demonstrating her ability to spell and correctly define words over 16 rounds.
The winning word was “herbivore” after Maya correctly spelled “empanada” to put herself in a position to win the event.
The runner-up was Cochlyn Carmean, 11, a Fruitland Intermediate School fifth-grader who went head-to-head with Maya for three rounds before stumbling on the word “stipple.”
Maya will represent a four-county region – Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester – at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington this May.
UMES sponsors the annual competition as an outreach initiative to local schools, which employ the university’s graduates or provide practice-teaching opportunities for its students.
Maya, who competed a year ago as a representative of North Salisbury Elementary School, bested more than 50 other spellers to win the 2016 title, which included a keepsake medallion and Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.
For the first time, the spelling bee at UMES included a homeschooled student and two Worcester County competitors who attend Snow Hill Middle School.
Following the competition, Maya told those offering congratulations she was nervous under bright lights in the Fitzgerald Center for the Performing Arts.
“I was the one who was nervous,” her mother, Lynn Matava, said. “I’m not sure this has sunk in for her or me, yet.”