Can you spell the word ‘duomo’?

Mark Bowen/Scripps National Spelling Bee courtesy photo Big Piney seventh-grader Jackie Meador, left, waits for the third round of spelling competition to begin at the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Wyoming spelling champion competes at National Spelling Bee

Eleven million young people

begin their spelling journey at thousands

of local competitions held across the United

States, Canada and other countries such as Jamaica

and the Bahamas. Round by round, the

best spellers advance through grueling tests

and preliminary tournaments to make it to the

Scripps National Spelling Bee hosted every

year near Washington, D.C.

On Monday, May 27, the top 565 spellers

in North America sat down to take the preliminary

tests at the Gaylord National Resort and

Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.

Dozens of students came from larger states

like California and New York. But only one

brave student stepped up to represent Wyoming

– seventh-grader Jackie Meador from

Big Piney Middle School.

“The experience was nerve-wracking and

kind of scary,” he said from the National Zoo

on Monday. “It made me anxious because I

didn’t know what word was going to come up.

I just had to concentrate on the word and block

everything else out. But it was also exhilarating.”

On Tuesday, May 28, the spellers were

divided into groups for the first preliminary

spelling rounds in the spotlight. The competition

is intense – one mistake on a single letter

ends the competition for an unfortunate


Hundreds of families and fans packed the

auditorium, and the competition was streamed

live on ESPN. Meador was speller number

526, and had to wait most of the day to stand

up on stage and spell his word. Meador’s

word, “duomo,” is not frequently used in everyday

speech in English. The word is of Italian

origin, and means cathedral.

Meador spelled the word correctly before

his time was up and advanced with 518 spellers

to round three.

On Wednesday, Meador stood up again on

the stage as Dr. Jacques Bailly, the competitions’

official pronouncer and a former national

champion, read the word “incapacitate”

for Meador.

Meador was lucky and said that he already

knew the words in round two and three, and

was far from incapacitated by either one. At

the end of the day, Meador was one of 369

spellers still in the competition.

Spelling bee officials narrowed the roster

down to 50 finalists based on scores from

Monday’s test. Unfortunately, Meador’s

score was just shy of making it into the final

rounds and he ended up tying for 51st place.

However, the young speller still has boasting

rights for making it that far and showed a lot

of courage representing the state of Wyoming

through some extremely tough competition.

Meador plans to compete again next year,

and said that he will focus more on the definitions

of words rather than just the spelling to

get a higher score on the test.

Most people Meador met knew something

about Wyoming, but Meador said he did have

to explain where the state was to people they

met outside of the competition.

A highlight to the trip was meeting people

from all over the country and world.

“There were a lot of kids there – kids from

other countries too,” Meador said. On the last

day of competition, the kids got some much

needed time off in the pool. Meador said he

made new friends from Hawaii, the Bahamas,

South Korea, Japan and Jamaica.

Standing up on stage to spell some of the

hardest and most obscure words in the dictionary

with the nation watching is daunting. The

staff, however, were all very kind and helpful,

Meador said, making the experience a little less

overwhelming. While Dr. Bailly seemed stern

and professional during the televised rounds,

Meador said that the official pronouncer was

“pretty awesome” behind the scenes.

Meador clinched his spot at the national

spelling bee when he won the championship

at the Wyoming State Spelling Bee in March.

Meador told the Examiner on April 2 that

the key to good spelling is reading a lot. He

had just finished reading Stephen King’s novel

“The Shining.”

“It’s got a lot of pages,” Meador said. “If

there’s a word I don’t understand, I try sounding

it out and then look it up. Occasionally a

word from the spelling bee list shows up (in

the book).”

In addition to Stephen King, Meador enjoys

fantasy series. He listed J.K. Rowling’s “Harry

Potter” books, “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the

Rings” trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein and the “Artemis

Fowl” collection by Eoin Colfer.

Getting ready for a tournament requires a

lot of work, Meador said on April 2. He spends

up to three hours studying words when he does

not have school, and practices for an hour on

school days.

Many of the words that spelling bee competitors

learn originate from languages other

than English.

“Most of the words are from a foreign language

and they are all used in English letters,”

Meador explained on April 2. “There are a lot

of Greek words that we use – there are a lot

of rules for Greek words. Russian and Slavic

languages really don’t have as many rules, and

that makes them harder to spell.”

Meador said the family is enjoying their

visit to Washington, D.C. In addition to the

National Zoo, the family hit the Smithsonian

Natural History Museum and the National Spy

Museum and plans to tour the White House

and Capitol.

“The spy museum was my favorite,” he

said. “They had on display bunch of different

gadgets, including a gun-concealing hat.”

By the numbers

• 565 spellers made it to the 2019

Scripps National Spelling Bee. Spellers

come from every state in the U.S., Canada

and other countries like the Bahamas, Germany,

Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South

Korea. Many states send several spellers.

Only one speller represented Wyoming:

Jackie Meador of Big Piney.

• At the beginning of the competition,

the spellers have to take a test on spelling

words and vocabulary. Here are examples:

grok, rucervine, sobornost, diel, dissilient,

flak, exculpatory, cyclopean, tritaph and

dianoia. How many do you know?

• 295 spellers this year were male, while

270 were female.

• Spellers ranged in age from 7 to 15.

The largest age represented was 13 at 169

competitors. The spellers’ grade levels

went from first- through eighth-grade. The

largest grade represented was eighth with

216 spellers.

• Most of the contestants are from

public schools at 65.5 percent of the roster.

Private school students made up 20

percent of the competition, followed by

parochial school students at 6.2 percent,

charter school students at 3.9 percent,

home schooled students at 4.2 percent and

one student going to school online.

• The first national spelling bee took

place more than 90 years ago in 1925.

The Louisville Courier-Journal hosted the

event. National spelling bees were conducted

every year except 1943, 1944 and

1945 when World War II was raging.

• The state with the most national champions

is Texas with 11. Ohio is second

with nine, followed by Colorado, Pennsylvania

and Tennessee with seven. To date,

there are no national spelling champions

from Wyoming.

• This year, eight winners were declared

national champions for the first time in history

when the bee officials ran out of words

with eight contestants still on the stage.


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