NATIONAL HARBOR,Md. – Kate Miller,12,was in high spirits as she congratulated friends with a high-five despite learning that she did not advance to the semifinals of the 85th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee on Wednesday evening.
Only 50 out of 278 national spellers were selected for the semifinals after receiving a score of 23 or higher on the written test combined with results of spelling two words onstage correctly.
“My friends and I look at it this way … we all tied for 51st place,” Kate said jokingly.
In Wednesday’s competition,Kate used a quirky technique that helped her advance through three rounds of preliminaries.
Some spellers scribble on their hand,others tap their feet in a rhythmic motion,but Kate “air-types.”
Walking up to the microphone Kate moved her fingers as if typing on a keyboard,spelling the words “fougade” and “trepak.”
“I visualize the keys when I spell and it helps me to recall the words at that time,almost as if I’m typing it on the computer,” Kate said.
The spirited home-schooled sixth-grader from Big Country Home Educators said she was inspired to begin spelling after watching her brother Jack,now 6,start spelling at just 3 years old.
Kate,whose favorite word is “discombobulated,” has been competing in local spelling bees since she was 6 years old,winning four bees since age 7,including this year’s regional spelling bee sponsored by the Abilene,Texas, Reporter-News.
“I’m ecstatic to be here – there is nothing I’d rather do than spelling,” Kate said.
The E.W. Scripps Co.,parent of the Spelling Bee,is exploring the possibility of offering an international version of the contest to teams from countries around the world.
The international bee would be distinct from the traditional national bee in that countries would have teams consisting of three spellers,in an Olympic-style competition.
“As English has become the global lingua franca,speakers and learners of English in the United States and around the world have found inspiration in the Scripps National Spelling Bee,” said Paige Kimble,director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. “Their interest has,in turn,inspired the vision of a spelling for the world.”
“I want to keep in touch with them my whole life — just meeting them has been really cool,” Kate said. “We have a lot of diverse personalities but we all have one thing in common,and that’s spelling.”
In preparation for the Bee,Kate’s weekly schedule included a 2-mile run,studying math,history and writing while incorporating 10 minutes of spelling between each subject.
Outside of memorizing words,Kate is like any other girl. She enjoys reading the Chronicles of Narnia Series,lyrical dancing and playing with her cat,Parsnip.
She is also involved in Girl Scouts,Rainbow Girls,youth group and her church choir.
Kate aspires to become a fourth-grade teacher or an Egyptologist.
Kate attributes her success to God,whom she says has allowed her to be humble throughout her journey to the national competition.
“It’s definitely been a blessing from God to get here,” Kate said. “Even though I didn’t expect to win,I believe I still win because I tried.”
When her mother,Bonnie Miller,asked her what she wanted to do once she didn’t advance to the semifinals,she replied with a smile,“Let’s go back to the room and study for next year.”
This year’s Bee features 278 spellers from all across the U.S. and eight other countries,with contestants ranging in age from 6 to 15.
The winner of this year’s Bee will receive $30,000 in cash and an engraved trophy from Scripps,a $2,500 U.S. savings bond and a complete reference library from Merriam-Webster,a $5,000 scholarship from Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation,$2,600 in reference works and a lifetime membership to Britannica Online Premium from Encyclopedia Britannica,and an online language course and Nook Color from Middlebury Interactive Languages. The champion’s school and sponsor will also receive engraved plaques from Scripps.
The Championship Finals will air live 8-10 p.m. EDT Thursday on ESPN.
Reach Reporter Kathryn Kenny at [email protected] or 202-326-9861. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.