October 21, 2014

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Written test keeps speller out of semis

Kaitlin Hall will finally have time to see some of the sights and history that make up the nation’s capital, but she would have preferred spelling to sight-seeing.

Kaitlin Hall of Avon spells during the preliminary rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Wednesday. (McClatchy Newspapers photo.)

Kaitlin Hall of Avon spells during the preliminary rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Wednesday. (McClatchy Newspapers photo.)

After besting some difficult words during preliminary online spelling and vocabulary tests, the 13-year-old Avon Middle School seventh-grader correctly spelled “renaissance” and “ebenezer” in two oral preliminary rounds of the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee just outside Washington, D.C.

But when scores from her written online spelling and vocabulary rounds were combined with those from her oral rounds, Kaitlin came up a bit short on the written portion of the spelling test.

As a result, she is not among today’s 41 semifinalists whose competition will be televised at 2 p.m. on ESPN2.

One of the words she missed in written tests was the tongue-twisting “Ouagadougou,” the name of an African city.

“That one was hard,” Kaitlin said. “I spelled it phonetically (which produced a different and incorrect spelling).”

One of the words she spelled correctly Wednesday, “ebenezer,” is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as denoting “anger or temper” or “a commemoration of divine assistance.”

While up to 50 spellers can advance to the semifinal, only 41 were selected, according to Matt Hall, Kaitlin’s father.

“The number is based on a formula that factors in how many spellers miss one, two or more words,” Matt Hall said.

Three of the 281 spellers had perfect scores, Matt Hall said.

Despite the nerve-inducing atmosphere on the first day of oral competition, Kaitlin felt comfortable onstage, according to her dad.

Things got a bit tense as she neared the end of one round and was poised to advance to the next.

Kaitlin will know exactly how she fared when official rankings are posted today.

“She’ll probably be in the 50 to 60 (spellers) range,” Matt Hall said.

“She was very close, maybe one or two points of making the semifinalists.”

Despite her disappointment, Kaitlin had a good outlook.

“I would have liked to have moved on, but I feel good for the kids who did,” she said. “They obviously deserved to.”

Kaitlin and her dad plan to check out some of Washington’s famed attractions.

“We’ll tour the city Friday and that should be fun,” Kaitlin said.

They also plan to attend the final rounds of competition.

“I’m excited to see the rest of it from a spectator’s standpoint,” Kaitlin said.

Even so, she’s already pondering another try to return next year.

“This is my first year and there’s a lot of returning kids,” Kaitlin said. “I’d love to do this again and maybe make it to the semi-finals.”

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.