He's all that he can bee

May 28, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - As a sixth-grader, he was sick the day his class held a spelling bee. He didn't get to compete in seventh grade, either.

But this year, as an eighth-grader, Damien Clipp participated in his first spelling bee and made it all the way to the national competition.

He was confident competing against his classmates and students countywide.

But the 14-year-old Hagerstown resident says he doesn't know how he'll fare Wednesday against the best spellers in the country.

The E. Russell Hicks eighth-grader will be competing in the 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Jackson Taylor Montgomery, 12, of Martinsburg, W.Va., also will be competing in the national spelling bee. He is a seventh-grader at Martinsburg South Middle School.

The preliminary round begins Wednesday, but Damien and his family said some event activities began Sunday. Damien said he was invited to a Memorial Day barbecue, and he will have a choice of two tours today: Annapolis or Mount Vernon.


The preliminary round begins Wednesday at 8 a.m., with quarterfinals later that afternoon. A winner will be named Thursday night. Damien's sponsor for the event is The Herald-Mail Co.

There are 286 students competing in this year's event.

While Damien said he hopes to do well in the spelling bee, his parents, Richard and Staci Clipp, said their son is already a winner.

Before the classroom, school and Washington County spelling bees, Damien said he studied lists of possible words he could be asked to spell. Though the lengthy lists contained more than 700 words, he said he was able to study the lists and often knew the correct spelling of most words before the competition began.

The national spelling bee will be different.

Damien said there is no list.

"It could be anything," he said. "It's basically the whole dictionary."

He's even been studying one word that has more than 40 letters. Damien said winning a spelling bee has a lot to do with what word he is asked to spell.

"I could not know how to spell my word," he said. "But I could know how to spell someone else's."

When his class held its spelling bee in January, Damien said very few students spelled their words correctly. He remembers being asked to spell "reminiscence."

A word he was asked to spell in the school competition was "tsunami." For some words, Damien said, it helps to know their countries of origin, a question he is allowed to ask during the national bee.

Damien says he's been studying every night, having his mother call out words to him. He's also studying 68 pages of prefixes and suffixes.

"We're randomly picking words from the dictionary," Damien said. "We'll find it and spell it."

During this exercise, he said he's getting about half of the words right. But he says that after seeing it and hearing how it is spelled, he'll typically get it right the next time.

A Maryland student has never won the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

For more information

On May 30 and 31, visit for competition results.

On May 31, LeapFrog will present the semifinals live on ESPN from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The finals air live on ABC from 8 to 10 p.m.

For details about the 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee, go to

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