“I was like, ‘What? No!’ ” Melina said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Moments before the start of Round 3, Carla Gabele, Melina’s mother, received a message from bee officials about Melina’s performance on Tuesday’s written spelling and vocabulary test.
“We got an email that said Melina got 26 points out of 36,” Carla said.
The test, worth 30 points, would determine who would advance to the spelling bee’s semifinals. Spellers needed at least 29 points to advance.
So Melina, 13, started Round 3 with a knot in her stomach.
“I told her that she probably didn’t make it,” Carla said. Like a good mother, she wanted to be honest with her daughter. “But I forgot to add in the 6 points for the two words she got right on stage.”
The two words — flamenco and isentropic — Melina correctly spelled in Round 2 and 3 gave the Willoughby, Ohio, native 32 points. And just like that, Melina, who tied for 47th place in last year’s competition, was another step closer to becoming spelling bee champion.
Earlier in the day before Round 3, Melina said she was ready to show off her spelling chops. “I kind of wanted a harder word,” she said, but still, Melina admitted she never could shake off the nerves.
“It was definitely a roller coaster,” the Mater Dei Academy eighth-grader said. “I was really nervous earlier, and now, I’m really happy.”
All 283 spellers appeared on stage Wednesday morning for Round 2, the first oral round. Only four spellers missed their words, and were out of the bee. By the end of Round 3 in the afternoon, 214 spellers remained. In both rounds, all the words came from a list of 1,000 study words.
At the close of Round 3, bee officials combined the scores earned by spellers in Tuesday’s written test and points earned spelling on stage to choose 49 semifinalists. After taking a second written test Wednesday evening, they will compete Thursday beginning at 10 a.m. EDT on ESPN2.
The finals will air Thursday at 8 p.m. EDT on ESPN. The winner takes home $35,000 in cash, a trophy and other prizes. All of the spellers were given Microsoft Surface 3 tablet computers to close Wednesday’s program.
Reach reporter Jeffrey Pierre at [email protected] or 202-408-1494. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.