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St. Mary student to represent county in national spelling bee

May 24, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- Jessica Swarner typically watches the Scripps National Spelling Bee on television.

However, this year, the 13-year-old Hagerstown resident will be in the hot seat, representing Washington County in the annual competition Tuesday through Thursday in Washington, D.C.

"I'm really nervous," said Jessica, an eighth-grader at St. Mary Catholic School. "Some of those words are crazy ... you've never even heard of them."

Jessica won her school's spelling bee before taking top honors in the county bee, held in March. The Herald-Mail is sponsoring Jessica in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

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Jessica's parents are Mike and Jackie Swarner, and her father will be taking her to the national bee.

Jessica said she was "iffy" on a few of her responses in the county spelling bee, but she was able to go all eight rounds without giving an incorrect answer.

Jessica also represented her school in the county spelling bee as a sixth- and seventh-grader. She was runner-up last year.

This year, Jessica said she prepared by studying a book of words she would be asked to spell.

"I kind of wanted to win," she said.

Her last word was "pre-emptive," and Jessica said she hesitated for a bit because she was unsure how to spell it.

"I've heard it before, but I didn't know, so I guessed," Jessica said.

While she studies for tests and works to prepare for competitions, Jessica said she also has a good memory and can usually spell a word after she sees it once or twice.

Still, Jessica is nervous about the competition.

"I'd rather be under the pressure, though," she said. "It motivates you."

Another motivation is her friends. Later rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee are televised, and Jessica's friends say they want to see her on T.V.

"I'm just kind of aiming for the second round at least," Jessica said. "Though it would be nice to win."

Jessica says reading and English are her favorite subjects, and she enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy.

Jessica has been playing lacrosse for six years, is active in Girls Scouts and attends a weekly prayer group.

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