WASHINGTON – In her mother's eyes,Gemel Amelia Joseph “is still a winner.” But at the 77th Annual Scripps Spelling Bee June 2 a word about a bird tripped her up.
“Something unusual happened to me when it was my turn to speak at the mike. … I got nervous. … That never happened to me before,” Gemel said in a telephone interview.
“Ossifrage” was the word Gemel misspelled,inserting an “I” where the final “A” should have been. “Ossifrage” is a type of bird.
Gemel was the 238th speller in the second round of the June 2 competition. As she waited her turn,she said she began to feel restless.
“I was looking around for things to do,” Gemel said. Most of the time when she was sitting on stage,she observed the scene and reviewed other competitors' words,spelling them correctly in her head.
“I wasn't that disappointed because I knew I could come back,” said Gemel,12,a sixth grader. Spellers can be as old as 16 and in eighth grade to participate in the national spelling bee.
Pamela Joseph,Gemel's mother,said she was not disappointed in Gemel's performance either. She understood that it is a big competition.
Of the 265 spellers,191 spelled correctly in the first oral round. But only 94 spellers continued to Round 3. They advanced because they got high scores on the first-round written test.
“ I've never heard most of these words in my life,” Joseph said. “Our kids are not exposed to these foreign words. I knew she did her best and I had confidence in her.”
Joseph mentioned that this is the first time she has attended the spelling bee and that she hopes to come back. Her husband came to Washington in 2001 when Gemel's sister,Leann Joy,was a contestant. They plan to attend the other city tours and events sponsored by the organization as well as the championship rounds June 3.
The young speller is graduating from Ricardo Richards Elementary School on June 8. She will attend John H. Woodson Junior High School in St. Croix,Virgin Islands,this fall.