Congratulatory signs and black, white and yellow helium-filled balloons greeted Olivia Jacobs on her return to Tisbury School Monday, after competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. last week.
Olivia, an 11-year-old sixth-grader, represented the Island as the winner of the Annual Martha’s Vineyard Schools Spelling Bee held at the regional high school on March 18.
As one of her prizes, the Martha’s Vineyard Times, which sponsors the event, underwrote the trip for her and her parents, Wendy and Gil Jacobs of Tisbury, to attend the national spelling bee. Olivia’s sister Dana, 15, a freshman at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, went with them.
The week-long event began on May 31, culminating in the spelling bee on June 2-4. This year’s competition included 273 spellers and was held at the Grand Hyatt Washington hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.
Olivia said her teachers and class at Tisbury School helped her study words in preparation for the spelling bee. Olivia and her mom made up a file with 6,000 words on cards, which she said she studied for about four hours a day after winning the Island spelling bee in March.
In round one of the National Spelling Bee preliminaries, Olivia and all the spellers spelled 50 words using a computer. Only 25 of the words, which were not identified to the spellers, counted towards their score.
In rounds two and three of the preliminaries, all spellers participate onstage. Olivia correctly spelled two difficult words, “philately” in round two and “errhine” in round three.
Asked if she was nervous up on stage, Olivia replied with a shrug, “Not really.” Her cool and calm composure is apparent in videos of her onstage spelling rounds available on mvtimes.com.
Although she has lived on the Island since she was 11 months old, Olivia’s trip to Washington, D.C. actually was a return to her birthplace. Although Bee Week activities kept everyone busy, Olivia said her favorite side-trip with her family was a visit to the Spy Museum. She also especially enjoyed a barbecue and picnic with the spellers and their families, and the five-course awards banquet, as well as meeting students from all over the world.
In a special Bee Week guidebook everyone received, Olivia was selected as one of 12 spellers featured on a special page about “Part-Time Spellers, Full-Time Kids,” which noted she has her own grooming and dog-walking business, “The Royal Dog.”
Along with warm congratulations from Principal Richie Smith, teachers, staff, and her fellow students on Monday, Olivia was presented with a fleece vest embroidered with “Tisbury School.”
While still savoring her experiences at this year’s spelling bee, Olivia said she hasn’t decided yet about competing in the Island bee next year. If she does end up at the national competition again in the future, Olivia and her parents said they learned a lot from their great experience this year.
In the meantime, Olivia came home with some great souvenir spelling bee tee-shirts, a Scripps Bee wristwatch, and many experiences she will undoubtedly remember under the heading spelled “F-U-N.”