by Rachel Cook
I still remember that day, months ago, when I won 2nd in the 6th grade school (Westhills Elementary School) spelling bee, and Jennifer Perryman (my best friend) won 1st.
I was shocked I'd made it that far. The last few years I had entered I had been distracted in various ways so I missed a word. Not because I have a short attention span, but because we had to wait to spell for so long. (One year I never got a bathroom break; hence distraction.)
I was told I'd be participating in the county bee in Chapel Hill, and was encouraged by myself, teachers, friends, and of course PARENTS, to cram the words into my head. Most of my studying was based on repetition, but I didn't quit, even though I practically nodded off in practice more than once.
There were several times I wanted to scream, "Stop! I can't do it, back off!" But it all paid. Every single bit cashed in and paid off. That night a few weeks ago (the county), I was nervous but confident. When my turn came, I'd just spell to my mom. I was amazed. I won 2nd again! I had a major adrenaline rush. The word I'd missed to get 2nd was R-H-Y-T-H-M-I-C. I was fine with second. I knew I was going to regionals.
I only had a weekend to study, so basically, I didn't. I only studied a small sheet of words Mrs. Rambo (my bee coordinator) gave me. The day of the regionals, I had to miss school, but I wasn't complaining. My stomach, however, was. My butterflies had eaten all my breakfast! During the regionals, I wasn't nervous on stage. Mostly because my parents were there, and the lights were so bright I couldn't see the audience much, just a blur.
During all that time I was having fun. I was still nervous, but I enjoyed the thrills. I looked at all the people, felt sympathy for those who missed, and wondered about the competition and what word I was going to get next.
When the pronouncer said they were going to use words that hadn't been in our lists to study, I tensed. But I kept getting easy words from the list Mrs. Rambo had given me, while people in front of me kept getting hard words! Words such as: benefactor, receptacle, and charisma and vernacular.
I had a kind of mystical experience. Maybe it was just luck of the draw, but everyone kept getting words I'd never heard of, and then the kid moved away and I came and got an easy word. It happened 4 or 5 times, and I thought it was like God wanted me to go to D.C., or something.
When I got out of the top nine as fast as I got in by missing L-O-B-O-T-A-M-Y, I was crushed. But I realized later, I did real well, because I was the youngest except for this other girl. 9th wasn't bad, and I have come away with a hunger to go back and win. Someday, I want a one-way ticket to the nationals.
Westhills counselor Mae Rambo submitted the following:
"It is a real honor to tutor children who have a desire to learn to spell words correctly. Every year I am overwhelmed by the accomplishments of the spellers and their efforts and amount of time spent studying. It is so awesome to see someone like Rachel participate in the Regional Bee. These students learn more than spelling skills. They also acquire 'life skills' such as: how to conduct themselves in public, interacting with others, how to respond to compliments, as well as dealing with disappointment."