NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Boone resident and Hardin Park sixth-grader Samuel Nystrom, 12, took part in the Scripps National Spelling Bee from May 27-29, spelling both his words on stage correctly at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.
With the bee streamed on ESPN3.com on May 28-29, Nystrom spelled “soufflé” and “reluctant” correctly.
Despite being perfect on stage, Nystrom did not qualify for the finals, as only the top 50 of the 512 remaining spellers made it after the results of their preliminary tests were factored in.
“Sam did not make the cut for the finalists who will be competing (May 30), so he has finished spelling for this year,” Sam’s mother Jen Nystrom said on May 30. “He is satisfied with that. I think maybe his only twinge of regret is that he didn’t get a more difficult word in round three. He’s excited to head to the museums (May 30) and to be in the audience for the final rounds.”
“We couldn’t be more proud of Sam’s accomplishments,” Watauga County Schools spokesperson Garrett Price said. “Winning your school’s spelling bee is no small feat in its own right, and winning the regional contest is truly a special accomplishment. Going on to compete at the national level is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Sam is an incredibly intelligent and hard-working student. He’s put in hours of diligent practice and it absolutely shows in his ability to compete at the highest levels.”
The National Spelling Bee has taken place since 1925, originally organized by the Louisville Courier-Journal, according to the bee’s website, run by the newspaper company The E. W. Scripps Company, based out of Cincinnati, Ohio, on a nonprofit basis.
“We are super-proud of how well Sam represented Hardin Park and Watauga County Schools at the National Bee,” said Hardin Park’s Emily Rothrock, who coordinated Hardin Park’s spelling bee. “Mrs. Mary Smalling (principal of Hardin Park) says it was his warm-up for next year’s national bee.”
A total of 565 spellers took part in the preliminaries, also known as round one, which consisted of a multiple-choice test that took place at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 27.
“The preliminaries test has 26 multiple choice items divided in four sections, with spellers identifying their responses on Scantron test forms,” the National Spelling Bee’s rulebook states. “A speller receives one point for each of the 12 items identified correctly in the round one spelling section and one point for each of the 12 items identified correctly in the round one vocabulary section.”
The preliminary test required competitors to correctly spell words such as “grok,” “dissilient and “sciapodous.” The vocabulary section asked the kids questions such as “Pyrosis is a synonym for?” and “What is a haymaker?” The results of the preliminary tests were not publicly released.
Along with the maximum possible 30 points on the preliminary test, spellers got to go onstage and spell a word in rounds two and three on Tuesday, May 28, and Wednesday, May 29, respectively. The correctly spelled words were worth three points each. Misspelling either word onstage would result in automatic elimination.
Following round three, the 512 remaining spellers, including Nystrom, had their scores from the first three rounds culminated, with a maximum of 36 points possible. Up to a maximum of 50 spellers with the highest results advanced to finals, which took place May 30.
Nystrom qualified for the National Spelling Bee by winning the regional competition in Winston-Salem on March 24, overcoming 27 spellers from 17 different counties in 11 rounds, winning with the word “tilth.” It was Nystrom’s second trip to the regional competition, having previously qualified two years ago.
According to WCS, that experience as a fourth-grader helped push Nystrom to work on his spelling skills.
“With the help of his mother, Jennifer, Nystrom spends time each night studying word lists,” WCS previously stated. “When he encounters a word he doesn’t know, he highlights it for later study.”