Today, I was able to attend the 77th annual Colorado State Spelling Bee, sponsored by the Denver Post. It was my first time not being there as a speller, and although it was different, it was still absolutely a great experience. After the morning written test (in which spectators are not allowed), as the past champion I was invited to give a speech to all the spellers and announce the 33 finalists. At 1 pm began the four hours of oral spelling rounds. The words came from Spell It! at first, but the bee soon moved "off-list." The first few off-list words were quite common; "healthy," "fellowship," and "confirm" are some examples. However, by the sixteenth round, when nine spellers were left, the competition got much harder: the words were the likes of "samphire" and "dorado."
Faith Baca, an eighth grader from the Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning in Denver, won the bee in the 22nd round on the word "rhabdoid" after having spelled words like "splanchnology" and "rubefacient." She was very well prepared and I have no doubt that she will represent our region very well at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May.
I coached two spellers who attended the competition today. One of them, Luke Henson, qualified for the oral rounds. He finished in second by spelling "icicle," "grotto," "Fletcherism," "Samaritan," "cacao," "sortie," "nachtmusik," "halal," "serdab," "perestroika," "nudge," "confirm," "hummable," "vertebral," "dinghies," "eristic," "samphire," "ballotage," "galloway," and "sacciform" before he was eliminated in the 21st round by the word "aubade." Edwin Wojcik finished third after missing the word "sterlet" in Round 18; he had an excellent showing today as well, spelling words like "accrescent" and "ursine." I also want to congratulate Charlotte Hellyer, my other student who was at the bee today, on her hard work preparing for today. She was one of the youngest competitors at the bee, has great enthusiasm, and is developing a strong knowledge base.
Being a spectator is quite different from being a speller. However, I still got nervous, albeit in a different way. Instead of being nervous about my own words, I was nervous for the spellers onstage because while the speller can (usually) control the letters that come out of their mouth, the audience has no such power over the spellers' letters, and that can be quite nerve-wracking.
Congratulations to everyone who participated today, especially to Faith Baca, who will be one of about 285 spellers at the National Spelling Bee in a few months!