Undaunted Anna Hughes abuzz with National Spelling Bee news
It is unlikely Anna Hughes, Martha's Vineyard's reigning spelling bee champion, will ever forget the word "hibernaculum" after participating in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. last week.
She correctly spelled that challenging word in front of hundreds of people onstage at the Grand Hyatt Washington hotel on May 29.
Anna, an eighth grader at Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School, represented the Island as the winner of the 17th Annual Martha's Vineyard Schools Spelling Bee held at the regional high school in March. As one of her prizes, the Martha's Vineyard Times, which sponsors the event, provided an expenses paid trip for her and her parents, Linda and Chuck Hughes of Tisbury, to attend the national spelling bee.
Jaimie, Anna's 21-year-old sister, flew in from Houston to join her family last week for the momentous occasion.
The weeklong event began on May 25, culminating in the spelling bee on May 29-30.
This year's competition included 288 spellers, the highest number in the national spelling bee's history since it began in 1925.
In round one of the preliminaries, Anna had to spell 25 words on a written test, ranging from an easy one, "mustard" to tough ones like "cacoethes," which she got right, and "eidetic," which she didn't.
Each speller in round two of the preliminaries also had to spell one word on stage. Although Anna said she got nervous while waiting for her turn to come up as number 127, she spelled "hibernaculum" with aplomb.
"She had the same smile she had when she won at the high school," said her proud Dad.
Although Anna's written test score didn't qualify her for further rounds, she said she was just happy to make it to the national spelling bee. She thoroughly enjoyed the week's activities, including an outing to the National Air and Space Museum near Washington Dulles International Airport.
"Even if you don't make it to the finals, you still get awards, and you still get pride - everybody treats you like you're a hero," Anna said. She received a $100 savings bond, among other prizes.
The National Scripps Spelling Bee is administered by the E. W. Scripps Co. and has 280 sponsors in the U.S. and around the globe. Anna especially enjoyed making new friends, who came from Canada, South Korea, Jamaica, and New Zealand. "There's not going to be another time when you meet a whole bunch of kids from all over the world like that," she pointed out.
Photo courtesy of Scripps National Spelling Bee
Anna also met 94-year-old Frank Neuhauser, the winner of the first spelling bee held by the Louisville Courier-Journal in 1925. He told her it was much easier for him to win because he only had eight competitors.
Sameer Mishra, a 13-year-old eighth grader from West Lafayette, Ind., won the national spelling bee on his fourth try this year. Anna said he told everyone he studied 23 dictionary pages every night since his last defeat.
She, on the other hand, admitted she studied about 15 minutes a night since winning the Island bee. Putting it all into perspective, she said, "I don't feel bad I lost, like some other kids did, because I have other stuff in my life."
When asked what advice she would give to future national spelling bee competitors, Anna said, "Go in, be happy, and it's not whether you win or lose - it's about meeting other kids and seeing the sights."
Mr. Hughes noted that spelling bee officials said 11 million students participated this year in spelling bee competitions around the world, of which only 288 made it to the national bee.
"My only hope is that more kids on the Island participate next year," he said. "If they knew how much fun they could have - and their parents - they all would want to do it."
While at the spelling bee, the Hughes met up with Kelley Nagi of Oak Bluffs, Lisa Belcastro and her daughter Kayla Goldman of Edgartown, and Kayla's grandparents, Betty Belcastro and Jack Kobelenze.
As a Possible Dreams Auction committee member for Martha's Vineyard Community Services, Ms. Nagi donated an expenses paid trip to Washington for four to attend the national spelling bee as an auction item last August. Ms. Belcastro made the winning bid. She said Kayla, a 5th grader at Tisbury School, has set a goal to make it to the national spelling bee as a contestant next year.
Ms. Nagi, who works as a producer for ABC's broadcast of the spelling bee, gave the Vineyard group a behind-the-scenes tour of the production studio.