Prepared to 'bee' the best

Smithsburg teen ready for national contest

Smithsburg teen ready for national contest

May 30, 2006|by KAREN HANNA


From aardvark to zyzzogeton, the words of Scripps National Spelling Bee's official dictionary could stump even the most-practiced participant.

With 2,662 pages of words and definitions, Webster's Third New International Dictionary towered above several less-intimidating study guides spread before local speller Anna Baldasarre.

More than a week before the bee - which begins Wednesday - Anna, 14, and her mother and sister, Laura, 15, said they have enjoyed preparing together.

"Yeah, I do enjoying studying the words. Sometimes, it gets old, but most of the time, it's fun ... especially when I know how to spell the words, but that's just an added bonus," Anna said.


Anna, a Smithsburg Middle School student, earned the right to compete in the national bee by outspelling other Washington County eighth-graders in March. At that bee, she struggled with only one word - agonal - on the way to victory.

Though her daughter typically is cool under pressure, Beth Baldasarre said the stress of competition is not nearly so kind to other family members.

"I know what my husband videotaped ... what was it sixth grade? ... you kind of get seasick watching it because he was shaking he was so nervous," Baldasarre said.

An aspiring writer and voracious reader, Anna, who recently won first place in a state young author's contest, said she set aside other hobbies to devote about 1 1/2 hours a day to preparing for the bee.

Of the 4,000 to 5,000 words in the bee's paideia -a study guide of words almost certain to be used in the first round of oral competition - Anna said she is confident of most.

"I don't know the definitions," she conceded. "We've gone through the whole thing like two or three times now, just drilling them."

When asked if Anna's spelling skills have run in the family, her sister, a Smithsburg High School sophomore, was emphatic.

"No," said Laura, who earned an early exit from the county spelling bee by misfiring on the word "indivisible" as a seventh-grader.

Laura said she and her mother have learned a lot from Anna's prep sessions.

"Whenever we are in the car, we sit and spell," Laura said.

According to Laura and Beth Baldasarre, the girls plan to visit some Washington, D.C., sites while they are in town this week. Rick Baldasarre, Beth's husband and the girls' father, plans to drop by when he can, Beth Baldasarere said.

Beth Baldasarre said she thinks her daughters have gained knowledge of the language en route to the national spelling bee.

Anna, who plays cello and piano, enjoys reading fantasy and realistic fiction, which she also writes.

"It has been a lot of work," her mother said, "but I think it will benefit her because she really enjoys writing. I think it has greatly expanded her vocabulary, and it has given all of us a greater appreciation of the English language."

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