December 18, 2014

Elyria
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National interviews, ESPN television ad feature Avon speller at Scripps National Bee

Kaitlin Hall, of Avon, in the blue T-shirt, attends a Memorial Day barbecue in National Harbor, Md., with other competitors in the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. MATT HALL/CHRONICLE

Kaitlin Hall, of Avon, in the blue T-shirt, attends a Memorial Day barbecue in National Harbor, Md., with other competitors in the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. MATT HALL/CHRONICLE

AVON — Kaitlin Hall has become a media darling of sorts on the eve of the 87th annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee.

The Avon Middle School eighth-grader found herself being interviewed by personnel from “The CBS Morning Show” and the Washington Post, as well as Cleveland’s Channel 5, WEWS-TV for which she did a weather spot that could air today.

The 2014 Chronicle-Telegram national bee contestant, Kaitlin also was among several contestants asked to film a short promotional video for ESPN, the sports network that has broadcast the bee in recent years.

“My whole day was pretty much doing news and TV shoots,” Kaitlin said by phone Tuesday. “It was a lot of fun.”

Especially the ESPN promo, for which she got to ride a big Ferris wheel in National Harbor, Md., while filming the short TV spots in which she said: “Welcome back, you’re watching the Scripps National Bee on ESPN.”

“I got to ride a $15 Ferris wheel and it was air-conditioned,” Kaitlin said.

The spot is expected to be shown following commercials as ESPN airs coverage of the bee’s semifinal and final rounds.

“All of the media were camped out in the convention center portion of the Gaylord National (Resort and Convention Center),” Kaitlin’s dad, Matt Hall, said of Monday’s media blitz.

“There is a hall of champions with banners from each year’s champion,” Matt Hall said. “There are all kinds of kiosks. It’s like going to a museum for the spelling bee.”

Kaitlin’s time in the media spotlight followed a brief, obligatory combination spelling-vocabulary written test that helps determine contestants for the bee’s preliminary rounds to take place today.

Those first rounds will be broadcast over ESPN3 and available online.

To be selected as a semifinalist, students must have a high combined score on the written test and must not miss a word onstage.

In her first national bee a year ago, Kaitlin didn’t miss a word onstage but just missed the cut on the written test to become one of 42 semifinalists.

This year’s bee has 281 contestants.

Kaitlin is set to compete onstage between 10 a.m. and noon today and again between 3:15 and 4:45 p.m., according to her father.


Kaitlin won’t know whether she advances to this year’s semifinal competition until about 5 p.m. today.

“I’m anxiously waiting for that,” Kaitlin said.

Kaitlin thought the written test was somehow easier this year.

“I felt more confident,” she said. “I don’t know if it was I was just more prepared or the words were easier.”

Kaitlin outlasted 29 other spellers, including Ozi Ojukwu, an eighth-grader at First Baptist Christian School of Elyria, during the 31-round district spelling bee March 21 to repeat as champion.

She correctly spelled the final two words — “crenate” and “suppositional” — to be declared the winner.

During a barbecue for spellers at a Maryland park Monday, Kaitlin ran into a girl named Meryl from Massachusetts who she competed with a year ago.

“We had been talking on social media and when we met it was like we already knew each other,” Kaitlin said.

Kaitlin admitted she hasn’t done quite as much studying this year to get ready for the bee.

“I stopped studying after the written test. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be,” she said.

Semifinal rounds will be shown from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday on ESPN2. Championship rounds will broadcast from 8 to 10 p.m. Thursday on ESPN.

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

Follow our Bee Buzz blog for updates throughout the Bee from Kaitlin’s father, Matt Hall.