The Spelling Bee

This past spring I went to see the state spelling bee.

The sate spelling bee is a spelling contest that lasts two days. On Day 1, a bunch of kids sit down to take a written spelling test. On Day2, the kids who do the best on the written test get up on a stage and spell.

One hundred ten kids took the spelling test last spring. The kids had to spell words like chimpanzee. The 50 who did the best on the written test went on to Day 2 of the spelling bee.

Day 2 is the part of the bee I like best. That's when the kids get up on stage and spell words out loud.

A man will say a word. Then the speller has to spell the word one letter at a time. If the speller spells the word without a mistake, he or she gets to keep spelling. If the speller makes a mistake, a bell rings.


Once the bell rings, that is the end. The speller is out of the bee. He or she must sit down in a chair and look on while the rest of the spellers stay in the bee and keep spelling.

On Day 2 of the bee I sat and looked on as the bell rang for lots of kids in the bee.

Airplane. A-e-r-p-l-a-n-e? Ding!

Graying. G-r-a-i-n-g? Ding!

Sunday. S-u-n-n-d-a-y? Ding!

The bell went on ringing all day, until there were just three spellers left.

Nate Griffin, age 12, was one of the three. He was the runner-up at the last spelling bee. Two of the experts I spoke with said they expected him to win the bee.

Craig Ping, age 12, was still in the hunt, too. He had finished in fifth place at the last bee. The experts I spoke with said he had a good chance of winning.

Gail Day, age 11, was the dark horse. When I asked the spelling experts who she was, they just shrugged.

Craig Ping was spelling well. Then he got a hard word. He stood sthinking. He spelled the word as well as he could. He waited.


Craig Ping was out of the bee. That left just Gail Day and Nate Griffin.

Nate Griffin and Gail Day were the last two spellers in the state spelling bee. Mister Griffin was spelling like a champ. But Miss Day was in fine form, too.

Mister Griffin was given a word to spell. He spelled the word in the air with his finger. Then he spelled it out load.

Miss Day was next. She was given a fifteen-letter word to spell. She had to stop and think a bit. Then she spelled it without a problem.

That's the way it went. Mister Griffin spelled a word. Then Miss Day spelled one. Griffen, Day. Griffin, Day. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Mister Griffin went word-for-word and letter-for-letter with Miss Day for ten words, until, at last, he was given the word penicillin. He tugged on his lip and shifted from foot to foot. He stood there thinking. Time went by. At last he took a shot at spelling the word.

He spelled it: p-e-n-i-c-i-l-i-n. (He left out on "l".)

Ding! The bell rang.

Mister Griffin was upset. He clenched his hand and winced.

Nate Griffin's slip-up gave Gail Day a shot at winning the spelling bee. She would have to spell penicillin. Then she would have to spell one last word.

Miss Day took aim and spelled: p-e-n-i-c-i-l-l-i-n.

No bell rang.

The last word was anesthetic.

Miss Day stood thinking. Then she spelled: a-n-e-s-t-h-e-t-i-c.

No bell rang. Gail Day was the winner!

Mister Griffin was the runner-up, just as he was at the last bee. You could see that he was let down by the loss. But he was a good sport. He went up to Miss Day, shook her hand, and gave her a hug.

Then Gail Day stood on the stage by hereself. They gave her a prize. They gave her a check for five hundred bucks. She slipped the check in her pocket and held up the prize.

She was the queen of the bee!