NATIONAL HARBOR,Md. – No word yet on whether Kate Miller’s invisible laptop has spellcheck,but the Abilene,Texas,native has air-typed her way to the finals of the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Kate,14,was one of 31 spellers,out of 46 semifinalists,who went two rounds of ever-more-difficult words,Thursday morning.
The semifinalists took a written test Wednesday evening. After Round 6 Thursday,bee officials added up scores from that test and the words spelled on stage to choose 12 finalists who will compete to be the 2014 champion live on ESPN Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.
In Round 5 she correctly spelled duello,which means rules of combat between two people.
“I’ve never seen it before in my life!” Kate said of duello. “I just made an educated guess because I know Italian words often end in l-l-o.”
In Round 6,Kate was given a longer word,brachypterous,meaning having rudimentary or small wings. After she spelled it correctly and advanced to the finals,her spirits were flying high.
“I’m on top of the world,and I don’t think I’ll ever come down,” she said.
Not only was she excited to move on,she was also cheering on her friends.
When she is on stage,Kate’s trademark move is to simulate typing out the letters of the word she is about to spell,as if she is in front of a computer. It’s symbolic muscle memory. When she studies,she types out the words she’s trying to learn.
“It helps me bring it to memory.” She said. Other go-to moves include requesting the language of origin,definition,part of speech and alternate definition.
As the semifinals started,Kate’s parents said it was going to be a 50-50 chance for Kate to advance.
“I’m shocked,” Kate’s father,John Miller,said. “I’m so happy for her. I can’t even express how exuberant we are.”
In Round 3,Kate,clinched her semifinals berth by spelling the word weevil.
“I never thought I’d cry!” Kate said after she teared-up as she stood on stage with the 45 other semifinalists and received her medal.
But just spelling words on stage wasn’t enough. All the spellers took a written test Tuesday,and that score determined who among the 223 spellers remaining after Round 3 would move forward.
In Round 2 Wednesday morning,Kate correctly spelled the word maelstrom,another word for whirlpool.
“I’m happy she knew it!” Kate’s father,John Miller,said.
“I heard it a lot before,” Kate said. “The Dutch words are my favorite.”
Kate,who is at her third consecutive national bee,said the first time she competed in 2012 was the most thrilling thing she ever experienced.
“It’s so big yet it’s so elite. You feel connected with the people here,” she said. “I feel like I know everyone because we all have the love of language and a certain ambition in common.”
Kate began competing in spelling bees in Abilene in fifth grade.
Along with a big shiny trophy,the winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee will receive a $30,000 cash prize,a $2,500 U.S. savings bond,and a three-year membership to Britannica Online Premium and Britannica World Atlas.
Kate credits all of her success to the love and support of her parents – her mother,Bonnie,is her coach – and her faith in God.
“I am always sure to try and thank God for making it this far,” she said. “And I say,‘Not my will but yours be done.’”
Absquatulate. Go ahead and sound it out (abˈskwäCHəˌlāt). It means to leave quickly,or as Kate put it “to hide.” Irony. It’s ironic that absquatulate is Kate’s favorite word because the Abilene native doesn’t hide from being on center stage,but relishes it.
Reach Ricardo Guillaume at [email protected] or 202-326-9865. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.