Spelling Bee 2007-2008
My Experience at the 2008 National Spelling Bee
by Catherine (Cat) CojocaruThe 2008 Scripps National Spelling Bee was the most amazing week of my life. I had participated in the bee in 2007, but I had been eliminated in the fourth round. I took the online preliminary test, and I was nervous. I knew most of the words, but I wasn t sure if I would pass or not. I guessed it was all up to the word I got on Thursday. Thursday came, and I was the very last speller of the first group in the oral round of the Preliminaries. After waiting for almost two hours, I held my breath and stepped up to the mike. Dr. Bailly greeted me, and then presented me with the word philistine. I knew I had heard of it before, but I was unsure of one letter. After prying for information, he informed me that there were six alternate pronunciations! The very last one helped me spell it. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Soon afterwards, I became nauseous and had a horrible headache. I couldn t even make it down to the ballroom for the announcement of the quarterfinalists I felt so sick. My dad and brother went there for me, and luckily, I passed with a score of 23. Round Three began with a word I knew, heliophobous, and was able to pick it apart by its Greek roots. Now Round Four, my personal hurdle was next. Smalto. Dr. Bailly enunciated. It was a type of Italian glass. I racked my knowledge of Italian. It sounds easy enough, I thought. I gave it a shot, and once Mrs. Brooks nodded, I squealed. I was going to be on ESPN!
The next day I was informed that my whole school system was going to watch the broadcast. I was glad for their support, but now I was even more worried. Round Five began, and the words were obviously much harder than in previous years. My turn came and I was faced with an unknown word sporangiophore. I gave it my best shot by figuring out the pieces of the word, and I was right!
In Round Six, I really had no idea how to spell redoppe. I asked every question I was allowed, and even one they couldn't answer. Are there any alternate words you can give me? That drew chuckles from the audience, but the clock was ticking and I knew I had to hurry. I thought of an embellished French spelling, and I was right!
At the end of Round Six, there were sixteen of us left. I approached the microphone, shaking and praying under my breath. Anticum. I sighed. With the hot ballroom lights beat down on my face and the knowledge that thousands of people were watching me, I could hear the bell ringing already. It was Latin, and after using all but three seconds of my regular time, I gave the simplest spelling I could think of. After I repronounced the word, I shut my eyes. I didn't want to see the look on the judge's faces as I heard applause? I was floored. I got the word right?!? I walked back to my seat, still in shock. The round ended, and exactly twelve of us remained.
About twenty minutes before the ABC broadcast, the twelve of us were escorted backstage. I looked around at all of us. We were very different, but we and our families had already become close knit over the past two days. I suddenly felt that, no matter what would happen tonight, everything would turn out all right.
Round Eight was actually pretty easy. Almost all the words were from the Consolidated Word List, which I had studied thoroughly. I completely guessed on my Round Nine word, Huguenot, and was right. I felt pretty good. In Round Ten I was faced by the obscure Russian word bogatyr. I had never studied Russian, so I spelled it bogateer. The dreaded ding echoed throughout the whole ballroom. I sighed when I heard the correct spelling, smiled at the thundering applause I got, and went to sit with my parents.
During the commercial break, I ran to the bathroom. As I began to cry, a speller I didn't even know gave me a hug and consoled me. But when I turned around to see who it was, they were gone. That brought me back to my senses. What was I doing here, feeling sorry for myself? I needed to go back in there and cheer on my friends! I wiped off my makeup, let my hair down, mustered up my courage, and went back to the competition.
The words got much harder after I was out. I couldn't believe how good the other spellers were! By the very late rounds, everyone was exhausted. After many standing ovations, tears, and even some laughs, winner Sameer held the trophy high. But the applause was for all of us. Saturday night was banquet night. Everyone was dressed in their best, and I felt great happiness as I sat on the dais and looked at all the people I loved sitting around me. The twelve of us were swarmed for autographs at the banquet. It was all so surreal; it took a while for me to understand that people actually wanted my autograph!
My experience at the National Spelling Bee has taught me many things. It taught me that winning isn't everything. It showed me that, with hard work, I can do better that I ever imagined. And lastly, that money and ranking aren't the most important things in this competition or in life your friends and family are what matter most. That was the week I will never forget.