Southern Maryland spellers swept from national level
291 children compete for the title during Bee Week
With their fate resting by the ding of a bell, three Southern Maryland spellers entered round three Wednesday afternoon at the 90th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor.
Charles County’s speller, Milton M. Somers Middle School eighth-grader Haley Elizabeth Payton, 14, said prior to round two she was pretty nervous, but “I kinda relaxed after I spelled my word.”
Keysha Payton, Haley’s mother, said she had been studying for the national spelling bee for about two months.
Haley Payton said anyone who wants to spell “should look at medical and scientific words. That helped me a lot.” Her second-round word was “florilegium” and she missed her third round word, “licentious.”
The St. Mary’s winner advanced through the first three rounds, but missed the finalist
mark by eight points. Chesapeake Public Charter School eighth-grader Annalee D. Johnson, 13, said this was her first time spelling at the national level. Her second-round word was “simoniacal” and her thirdround word was “urbanely.” She said she felt more calm on stage at the national level than at the St. Mary’s County bee back in March. “There were fewer words I had to study [for round two] and I felt more prepared,” Johnson said.
While round two was composed of a 400-word list distributed to spellers in early May, the third round’s words were expanded to all the entries in the Merriam-Webster unabridged online dictionary, said Paige Kimble, Scripps National Spelling Bee executive director. She said this is the 90th year the spelling bee has taken place and “we started out with 291 spellers” at the beginning of the week; 259 spellers were left to go into the third round, and “no more than 50 spellers will go on to compete in round four,” which was held on Thursday morning, she said.
Katie Johnson, Annalee Johnson’s mother, said, “They only took the top 40 this year [and the cutoff scores for the finalists] was 29.” Her daughter had a score of 21.
Each word spelled correctly is worth three points, and the rest of the score is determined by a written vocabulary and spelling test in round one. Despite her score, she thought she did “pretty well for the spelling, but the vocabulary was really hard,” Annalee Johnson said.
Annalee credited her parents with helping her prepare, and her English teacher for helping her with “lists and lists of words at lunch and recess,” she said.
Katie Johnson said she wanted to thank Southern Maryland Newspapers and the St. Mary’s public school officials for sponsoring her daughter and helping her get to the national level.
Plum Point Middle School eighth-grader Anna Kleist, 14, said her second-round word was “fibromyalgia.”
The Calvert County spelling champ said she was slightly nervous going into the second round because “there were 400 words and each of them has just as much of a chance to be given to you. So you better hope you get one that you’re sure of.”
Kleist said future competitors should study prefixes and suffixes, or the sets of letters that are added to the beginning or end of another word. “Using other languages, like language classes at school or singing in a different language definitely helps,” she said. “And reading, of course.”
Sandy Kleist, Anna’s mother, said being able to participate in the spelling bee is a great experience and an honor. She said she wanted to thank The Calvert Recorder and Calvert public schools for sponsoring and helping her daughter get to the national level.
Anna Kleist said she felt excited and slightly nervous about round three, where she missed her word, “idiolect.”
“I’ve had a lot of fun this year, being here,” she said.
St. Francis de Sales Catholic School eighth-grader Erin Marie Welch, 14, of Princess Anne, said prior to the third round that she wasn’t sure if she was going to make it and “get my word right.”
Her second-round word was “samarium,” and she correctly spelled “retractable” in the third round. Welch said she was also concerned about her round-one preliminary test score. During the third round, she asked the judges if her word was from the Latin root word for trace.
Welch survived round three but her mother, Sophie Welsh, said her daughter didn’t make the finals “but this has been a great experience beyond the words.” She said she is “truly grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“This is my first time at nationals,” Erin Welsh said. “I’ve been competing in spelling bees since the fourth grade. I didn’t make it last year, but I’ve been to the regional spelling bee for four years.”
Milton M. Somers eighth grader Haley Elizabeth Payton spells on Wednesday “licentious” during round three.
Chesapeake Public Charter School eighth grader Annalee D. Johnson spells Wednesday the word “simoniacal” during the second round.