NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Oona Flood had heard the word “fuliginous” before, and it earned her a spot at the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee. The 10-letter adjective she spelled correctly means “sooty” or “dusky.”
The 14-year-old beat more than 100 other seventh- and eighth-grade spellers in the San Diego regional bee.
“We are just so proud of her,” Oona’s mother, Kiko Gladsjo, said. “She’s a very determined and very correct person. She always notices any misspellings anywhere.”
In addition to spelling, the bright-blue haired teen speaks three languages: English, Spanish and Arabic.
“I chose to learn Arabic because I was interested in working for the U.N. or in journalism, and Arabic seemed like a pretty helpful, diplomatic language,” Oona said. “I feel like a lot of Americans don’t really know that much about the Middle East except over dramatizations of what they’ve seen on television, and I wanted to ease tensions and spread awareness about that.”
She can also envision working for the CIA one day.
Oona’s extracurricular activities include gymnastics, classical guitar and playing saxophone in the band at Earl Warren Middle School in Solana Beach, Calif.
Along with her mother, her father, Kevin Flood, and her twin brother, Kai, came to support her at the bee.
She isn’t the only child with a talent for words. Oona said Kai is extremely well versed in vocabulary.
“He reads all of these really obscure books with really advanced vocabulary,” she said. “He’s way better than me.”
All 285 spellers took a written spelling and vocabulary test Tuesday morning. Spellers take the stage for Round 2 at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Those who spell their words correctly spell again on stage in the afternoon. ESPN3 will televise the competition beginning at 8 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. EDT.
At about 5 p.m., bee officials will announce the names of a maximum of 50 spellers to advance to the semifinals. They are chosen based on the points they earn for correctly spelling words on stage and their scores on the written test. ESPN 2 will broadcast the semifinals beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday.
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 Kathleen Devaney 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.