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Knoxville youth advances in national spelling bee

May 31, 2000|By TARA REILLY

For someone who didn't prepare much, 14-year-old Kevin Roberts showed the nation he can hold his own when it comes to spelling.

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The eighth-grade student who is home-schooled in Knoxville survived the first three rounds of the 2000 Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. Wednesday and advanced to today's finals at the Grand Hyatt's Independence Ballroom.

Roberts said he didn't spend a lot of time studying for the competition. He said he took a last-minute glance through the 2000 Paideia, a 3,500-word study booklet from which words used in the first round were taken.

"I really didn't study as much as I should have," Roberts said. "I skimmed through the book. All the last minute studying I did really didn't help."

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The competition started out with 248 students ranging in age from 9 to 15. The field was cut in half during the first day of competition. Today's championship rounds are to air live on the cable network ESPN.

Two local students misspelled words Wednesday.

Kelsey Swaim, 11, was eliminated in the second round when she misspelled "heathen." She is a fifth-grade student at Widmyer Elementary School in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

Troy Shindle, 13, a seventh-grader at Greencastle-Antrim Middle School in Greencastle, Pa., was eliminated in the first round when he stumbled on "toxophilite."

Roberts, sponsored in the contest by The Herald-Mail, correctly spelled the words "levanter," "franchisee" and "quinine." He said he knew the first two words right away, but was a little stumped by "quinine."

"I had a hunch that I had it right, but I wasn't quite sure," Roberts said. "I just really took a guess, because I couldn't remember hearing the word ever before."

Roberts said being put on the spot in front of hundreds of people didn't bother him.

"It's really not all that bad," Roberts said. "I just came down to have fun. I didn't expect to make it this far. I told everyone I was going out in the first round. If I get knocked out it's no big deal."

His mother, Sandi Roberts, said she had an inkling her son would do well.

"I think he has the confidence and ability to do it," she said. "It's a well-rounded experience."

Roberts plays chess and teaches a class on basic chess strategy. He's the Web master for his local home-school network and is president of his 4-H club. He also has started his own juggling business, providing entertainment at local festivals.

This is the 73rd National Spelling Bell. The competition began in 1925 but was not held from 1943 to 1945 during World War II.

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