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Published: Friday, 5/31/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

National bee ‘experience of a lifetime’ for 11-year-old

Speller perfect onstage, but falls short of semis

BY LORENZO LIGATO
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Samantha Schofield stands on stage as she spells the word ‘amphibious’ in the National Spelling Bee on Wednesday. Samantha Schofield stands on stage as she spells the word ‘amphibious’ in the National Spelling Bee on Wednesday.
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After advancing through three preliminary rounds, Samantha Schofield’s run in the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee came to an end.

Samantha, 11, a fifth grader at Fallen Timbers Middle School in Whitehouse, correctly spelled her two words in Wednesday’s on-stage spelling tests, but that was not enough to land her a spot in the semifinals of the three-day national spelling competition that began Tuesday in National Harbor, Md.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Samantha, who had been sponsored by The Blade after spelling down 53 other students in the 2013 Blade Northwest Ohio Championship Spelling Bee in March. She won an expenses-paid trip to the Washington area for the National Spelling Bee, which this year brought together 281 children from across the country to test their linguistic prowess.

Only 42 young spellers advanced to Thursday’s semifinals: In addition to spelling their two words, the advancing semifinalists also scored highest on a computer-based test that served as a tiebreaker and counted for 50 percent of a speller’s score.

RELATED ARTICLE: Arvind mahankali, 13, wins National Spelling Bee

The 45-minute test took place Tuesday, on the first day of the competition, and required the young contestants to correctly spell 24 words and respond to 26 multiple-choice vocabulary questions. For the first time in the 86-year history of the Bee, spellers were tested not only on the spelling of a word, but also on its meaning, a rule change that proved particularly challenging for younger contestants such as Samantha.

“I think the vocabulary was kind of hard, especially for fifth graders that don’t do too much vocab at school,” Samantha said of the vocabulary questions of the test, which included gems like “netizen” (an active Internet user) and “Ouagadougou” (the capital of Burkina Faso).

When the onstage spell-offs began Wednesday, Samantha didn’t miss a letter: She spelled “amphibious” in the morning round and “soilure” in the afternoon.

“As soon as she smiled, I knew she could spell the word,” recalled Janet Schofield, Samantha’s mother.

Mrs. Schofield, who accompanied Samantha on the trip to National Harbor, said the National Spelling Bee was the “experience of a lifetime” for her daughter, citing the “great atmosphere” of the event.

“It was such a great experience,” Mrs. Schofield said. “Everybody has seen snippets of the National Spelling Bee on TV, but being here is so different.”

Samantha added jokingly that it was “awkward” to watch her onstage performance on television after the contest was over.

“My mom just wanted to watch it over and over,” she said.

Samantha was one of 19 young spellers from Ohio to head to the National Spelling Bee this week, more students than any other state in the country. Only two of them advanced to the semifinals on Thursday: Seventh graders Joseph Delamerced of Cincinnati and Ashwin Veeramani of North Royalton competed against the other 40 semifinalists Thursday afternoon, but they both failed to qualify for the finals.

In the two-hour final round of the competition Thursday night, eighth grader Arvind Mahankali, 13, an eighth grader at Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School in Bayside Hills, N.Y., clinched the title as this year’s winner.

The three-day national spelling contest was televised live on ESPN.

Contact Lorenzo Ligato at: lligato@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.



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