WASHINGTON – When 14-year-old Elizabeth A. Jendrzey, heard “tapotement,” she asked the moderator to define it and to place it in a sentence so she could delay having to spell the unfamiliar word.
“All I was thinking was stall,ask questions and stall,” said the Corpus Christi,Texas,native,who just finished eighth grade at Calallen Middle School.
She spelled “t-e-p-o-t-m-e-n-t.” That and too few points on the first-round written test eliminated her from the competition after the second round.
Elizabeth's father,Randal S. Jendrzey,an engineer,hoped the word his daughter was given wouldn't have a foreign root.
“I was praying that it wasn't a French derivation because she hadn't had time to study those,” he said.
According to Webster's Third New International Dictionary,tapotement has a French origin and means to strike with the fat of the hand.
Elizabeth and 274 other spellers from across the nation and some other countries gathered here Wednesday to compete in the 2006 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Contestants competed for a top prize of $37,500 in cash and scholarships,along with other prizes for the champion's school sponsor and other top finishers.
Thursday's preliminary championship rounds will be televised on ESPN from noon to 3 p.m. EDT. And in a first,the championship rounds will be televised on ABC from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT.
Asked later about her word,Elizabeth said she knew nothing of the meaning.
“I heard nothing remotely like it,” Elizabeth said. “I was hoping that the written test gave me a shot at the third round.”
In the first round,contestants completed a 25 word written test. For each word spelled correctly,contestants earned a point. During the second round,contestants spelled a word orally,earning three points for a correct word.
Contestants needed to earn a minimum of 21 points to progress to Round 3. Elizabeth received 17 points on her written test,and had she spelled her oral word correctly,she still would have had only 20 points.
“I was a little mad,but I thought I still had a shot,” Elizabeth said.
Asked what she would have done differently,studying came to mind.
“I probably would have studied a bit more,and thought out my word a bit more. I felt really rushed,” Elizabeth said.
Despite the intense pressure of the bee and not making it to Round 3,Elizabeth said she enjoyed Washington.
“This is definitely harder than it looks,” Elizabeth said.