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County spelling champ goes 2-for-2 on stage at national bee

May 30, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Boonsboro Middle School student Grace Li cleared two onstage hurdles Wednesday at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Now, she must wait to learn if she advances.

The 14-year-old Hagerstown resident correctly spelled rambla - defined as "a dry ravine, or the dry bed of an ephemeral stream" -in round two of the bee, the first of two oral rounds Wednesday at the national bee at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.

In Wednesday afternoon's third round - a second oral round - Grace correctly spelled eigenvalue, a word defined as "the change in magnitude of a vector that does not change in direction under a given linear transformation; a scalar factor by which an eigenvector is multiplied under such a transformation."

Grace is representing Washington County at the national bee this week. She is sponsored by The Herald-Mail.

On Tuesday morning, she participated in round one of the bee, which was a written or computer test.

Grace said she was nervous, but she tried to stay calm.

“There were a couple of words that I misspelled, that I guessed on. I think I did pretty well,” Grace said during a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon.

One of those words was tomalley, which sounds like tamale. It’s not the food you’d find at a Mexican restaurant, but lobster liver, Grace said.

During round one, Grace wore headphones so she could hear the words presented. She could see each word’s origin, part of speech and definition, and how it would be used in a sentence on the computer screen. Then she typed the word.

While she was asked to type 50 words, only 25 will count toward her first-round score. So Grace doesn’t know if tomalley is one of the words that will count.

Rather than go sightseeing Tuesday afternoon, Grace said she planned to study.

She has a book she was given after the county spelling bee that contains words that might be used during rounds two and three, which are oral rounds.

“I’m just looking at the list, and my mom’s going to help me by reading off the words to me, and I’m going to practice spelling them,” she said.

Grace is the daughter of Xiaorong “Sharon” Yin and Mengyang Li. She has been studying Spanish through Boonsboro Middle’s world languages magnet program.

The names of the semifinalists will be announced after round three Wednesday. The semifinals will air live Thursday on ESPN2 and the finals will be aired live Thursday night on ESPN.

Grace said Tuesday that during the oral rounds, she would at least ask for the definitions of the words she is given in case any of them are homonyms.

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Because she's competing in the national bee, Grace will miss her school's eighth-grade picnic, a class trip to Hersheypark and an awards ceremony on graduation day this week.

She won’t make it back to Boonsboro Middle for the last day of school on Friday, either, so she’s already said goodbye to her school friends.

“But it’s really nice to be here though,” said Grace, 14.

And on Friday, when her fellow eighth-graders are at the class awards ceremony, Grace will be taking a seven-hour tour of Washington, D.C., which bee organizers have arranged for the spellers, before going to the bee’s awards banquet and farewell party.

The other spelling bee contestants have been “really nice” and she’s making friends, Grace said.

“It’s very exciting,” Grace said.

About Wednesday’s rounds, Grace said she was “nervous, but I can’t wait, too.”

Grace said she likes spelling.

“I hate spelling things wrong,” she said.

“If I’m writing something, I like to spell everything right. It’s just sort of the way I function,” she said.

Spelling also helps her improve her vocabulary, she said, like learning to spell tomalley.

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