Hancock student spells his way to national bee


HANCOCK - Charles Smith has a favorite word, and he loves to impress people by spelling the 34-letter tongue twister.

While his family and friends may ask him to spell supercalafrajalisticexpialidocious -- a nonsensical word made famous by Mary Poppins -- it's unlikely he'll hear the word when he competes Thursday in the 2008 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Charles, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Hancock Middle-Senior High School, was the top speller in Washington County, landing him a spot in the national bee.

Two hundred and eighty eight spellers will compete starting Thursday in Washington, D.C. The Herald-Mail Co. is sponsoring Charles in the bee.


Another Tri-State-area student, Jessica Shakesprere, 11, of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., also will compete.

"Spelling comes to me easily," Charles said. "I don't have to work at it."

Charles lives in Hancock with his parents, Glen and Kim Smith, his brother, Clayton, 7, and his sister, Eva, 11.

Charles' English teacher, Linda Kendo, recognizes that Charles has high self-esteem, but said it is for good reason.

"He's an extremely good speller," Kendo said of her student. "One of the best I have encountered. He's also an extremely intelligent student and excellent reader. His vocabulary is way up there ... off the charts."

Earlier this month, Charles was reading an adult-level book by one of his favorite authors -- Michael Crichton.

Kendo said Charles will be successful in the national competition.

"I know he's coming back with the trophy," she said. "I just know it. I just feel it."

Charles said he has read most of the words he's asked to spell in spelling bees. He's an avid reader, spending hours each day poring over science fiction and mythology books.

"Most of the time, I'll have my nose in a book, so that's all the studying I have to do," Charles said.

After reading a word, he said he can spell it the next time he's asked. That skill led him to win the countywide spelling competition for seventh-graders last year.

Charles said he has always had a knack for spelling, and despite not studying before this year's county competition, he said he has been preparing for the upcoming bee with a dictionary and computer software he received from the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

While he appears confident about the bee, Charles said there is one thing he is worried about: talking too fast. The judges in the oral competition have to be able to understand what he is saying.

"I am going to spell slower," Charles said. "I get excited or nervous, and I'll talk fast to get it over with."

If you watch

What: The Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

When: The quarterfinals air live on from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday. The semifinals air live on ESPN from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday. The championship finals air live on ABC from 8 to 10 p.m. Friday.

Details: For more information, go to

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