On stage, the two-time bee contender was without fault, spelling “schnell” and “schiller” with ease — Wednesday, she said words with German origins were her specialty.
But on paper, Melina, 13, didn’t fare so well. Like the 11 spellers eliminated after Round 6 Thursday afternoon, Melina scored low in the written portion of the spelling bee.
Melina said her semifinal test results “wasn’t nearly as good,” as Wednesday’s preliminary written test.
“I’m decent test taker,” Melina said. “But I only knew, for sure, one or two words.”
The competition’s spelling and vocabulary portion is intended to narrow the field of spellers, who, like Melina, flourish on stage. Back home in Willoughby, Ohio, Melina went head-to-head for 60 rounds with one speller before she was crowned Ohio’s Tri-County Spelling Bee champion.
Her father, Mark, said “ luck of the draw,” was the reason his daughter struggled during Wednesday night’s written spelling and vocabulary test.
“It was tough test,” he said. Melina’s mother, Carla, said, “those words” — like Walpurgisnacht or Phalaenopsis — “were crazy.”
Melina said she’s disappointed, but mostly she’s glad it’s over, for good. In the fall, Melina starts ninth grade at Lake Catholic High School and becomes ineligible, because of age, to compete in another national spelling bee.
Despite the loss, when Melina returns home, she said she’s celebrating. On June 3, she will graduate from Mater Dei Academy and celebrate her 14th birthday.
“My entire goal for this year was to make it to the semifinals, and I did that and went past that,” Melina said. “I’m just happy I was able to be a part of this.”
After the applause died Wednesday, the 49 finalists took a second written spelling and vocabulary test. In a first, bee officials released a list Thursday morning ranking the semifinalists based on their performance on stage Wednesday and both written tests.
Those ranked near the bottom knew they had little chance of making into the finals, but they spelled earnestly, hoping to end with a higher rank.
Those who spelled their first words correctly got a second chance to spell on stage. After that, bee officials chose the top 10 spellers based on their total scores. 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.
Reach reporter Jeffrey Pierre at [email protected] or 202-408-1492. 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.