WASHINGTON – The 77th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee that concludes June 3,has been a learning experience for Coralie Rose Clark,11,of Window Rock,N.M.
“I think I did well for the first time,” Coralie said.
Coralie misspelled “exonumia,” placing an “A” where the “O” belonged in the competition's Round 2. “Exonumia” means collectible medals or tokens.
The pool of 265 children who took the preliminary written spelling test June 1 shrank to 46 by the end of competition June 2.
Coralie,a fifth grader at Window Rock Elementary School,and Brenna Ann Cobb,a sixth grade student at Thoreau Middle School,of Thoreau,N.M.,did not advance to Round 3 after judges combined test scores with their Round 2 oral spelling performance.
In Round 2,Brenna,12,correctly spelled “clepsydra,” which means a water clock,but she did not reach the 17 point threshold score that moved 94 spellers into the next round.
In the days before the start of the oral competition,children ages 9 to 15 continued to study in their rooms or in the hotel lobby.
Parents sat with their spellers,studying the Bee Week Guide,which included brief biographical information for each of the contestants.
In the hours after the 8 a.m. written spelling test,or Round 1,spellers could be found sitting cross-legged on the hotel lobby floor playing chess. Others sat in the chairs behind them cramming as many words as their minds would allow – reading the 2004 Paideia,the official bee study guide,and surfing the Net.
Moms and dads,brothers and sisters,aunts and uncles,grandparents and cousins came from across the country to support their kin,wearing ribbons to signify their close connection to the bee.
Words as common as “separate,” which appeared on the written test,did not stick around for long. “Shaviana” was one of many words that,by Round 4,prompted remaining contestants to ask for the origin of a word,its definition,and the use of that word in a sentence.
“Shaviana” refers to items collected pertaining to writer George Bernard Shaw.
Infrequently,spellers would rejoice over a word they spelled correctly with the universal “Yes!” of relief and the accompanying gesture,or throw both arms in the air as a smile revealed the release of anxiety that had audience members on the edge of their seats.
“Forbivorous,F-O-R-B-I-V-O-R-O-U-S,forbivorous,” contestant number 161 from North Carolina,Marshall Winchester,spelled in Round 3. Hesitating briefly until his call was affirmed by a judge,the audience applauded.
A bell was rung seconds after the recitation of a misspelled word. The speller was then led off the stage by a guide and into the “comfort room,” where family members could privately talk with their children and if need be,console them.
An hour in any given round appeared to be longer by the looks on the faces of children left on stage. Most watched the contestant spelling at the podium. Some,like contestant No. 84,John Tamplin or Louisville,Ky.,rested their heads on their hands. Others surveyed the audience and gave a thumbs-up or wave to their escorts.
A father read his prayer book minutes before his son rolled his wheel chair to the microphone. A mother several seats down held her tearful son,who had been eliminated.
“It was educational and an experience that showed her how much dedication it takes,” said Debbie Epsitty,Coralie's mother. “She has a better idea of how much she'll have to work next time.”
Coralie traveled here with her mom and dad,her teacher and her teacher's daughter.
“I think she did OK for her first time,and hopefully she'll come back next year,” said Coralie's father,Duane Clark.
Coralie,who began studying for the national bee after winning regionals in March,said she plans to try again next year. While working as an honors student and president of her school's fifth grade student council,Coralie studied for the bee in the mornings before school and on the weekends. She has,as a student in her school's gifted and talented program,also earned awards for her athletic performance in basketball and baseball.
Coralie said her family will attend the awards banquet.
Brenna who participated in the 2003 national finals was unavailable for comment,but her biography says she is an active member her school's drama club,takes singing lessons and performs in voice recitals. Brenna reads fantasy books and writes short stories. She also participates in 4-H events,builds construction models,surfs the Internet and paints.