Thursday, May 28, 2009


No posting last night, we were too busy celebrating. Yes, it is true that Speller 128 did not advance to the semi-final round; only 41 of the 293 spellers did. Spellers could earn a maximum of 31 points, the cut to make it into the semi-finals was 28. Spelling is an unforgiving sport. A baseball player can make an error in the top of the 9th inning only to hit the walk-off in the bottom. Spellers have no room for error, it is a sport that accepts only perfection.
We are celebrating because Speller 128, Daniel, is here in Washington, DC, at the National Spelling Bee. He earned his way here by studying hard, sometimes giving up more fun activities, to spend time on Latin roots, or words with unusual beginning letters like "gnostic." There are spellers from each of the fifty states, five from Massachusetts alone, and international spellers from Ghana, Jamaica, China, to name a few. Any Bee official you speak with will tell you that these kids are all champions and we are proud of our champion.
Yesterday morning began very early. Daniel was in the first group of spellers in Round Two. Spellers 1 to 145 reported to the stage at 7:45 a.m. Speller 128's Round Two word was "fertilizer." He asked all of the allowable questions, part of speech, etymology, alternate pronunciations, and use in a sentence. I was getting nervous thinking he didn't know the word, but, he explained later, that he had been sitting on the stage for 127 other spellers to go, he wanted to wake himself up and to compose himself before he began to spell. When he began, he looked right at the judges, spoke clearly and loudly and got his word right.
After Round Two we found a posting on the message board that our local ABC affiliate wanted to interview Speller 128. He was "miked up" and then proceeded to answer all of the interviewer's questions with absolute poise and charm. Barbara quickly called the Veteran's Middle School and emailed The Daily Item to alert them to Daniel's upcoming TV appearance.
The day continued, Round Three spelling began at 1:15. Round Three words were substantially more challenging than Round Two. More than 30% of the spellers incorrectly spelled their word. Once again, Speller 128 approached the microphone, asked all of the permitted questions, and spelled occision. The blogger in me feels it's necessary to simply state the facts, but the mom in me feels it's important to note that Speller 128 used good manners in his questioning. 
After his two spelling rounds we had nothing to do but wait until the semi-finalists would be announced. We were hopeful, because Speller 128 felt he had done well on the written test. When the 41 semi-finalists were announced and his number was not called, he took it like a true Chicago Cubs fan, and said "Wait 'til next year."
We had our celebratory dinner in the Capital Grille, the host and wait staff were excited to have a spelling champion in their midst and treated us like honored guests. Our meal was wonderful and after being fully sated we walked to the Monuments and Memorials. 
It had been our hope to visit here on Memorial Day, but a thunderstorm caused us to postpone those plans. While we are certain that the Monuments are awe inspiring in the daylight, at night they are truly magnificent. The Korean War Memorial, with its soldiers tramping through rough terrain, is very evocative of the loneliness and the unknown that the soldiers must have felt. The Lincoln Memorial, with the words of President Lincoln carved into the walls surrounding it, is monumental in its size. The newest Memorial, the World War II Memorial, honors not only those that fought and those that lost their lives, but those that supported the war effort at home as well. The sound of rushing water from the fountain blocks out the everyday sounds and brings one into a reflective moment.
It was a long day, a happy day, a day to be proud, and now we're on to the next adventure - the semi-finals and the finals.

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