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Spelling bee teaches important lessons

The format will be different than it has ever been, and there will be fewer participants than in recent years, but the goal of the Scripps National Spelling Bee remains unchanged: To help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.

This year’s top 209 spellers will be gathering in a virtual format Saturday as competition in the bee gets started.

That’s down from the more than 400 who have been a part of the bee in the past.

That field will include Isabella Fletcher, who just completed the seventh grade at Harding Middle School.

Fletcher earned the right to participate in Saturday’s preliminary rounds when she correctly spelled the word “blastema” to win the Herald-Star, Jefferson-Harrison County Regional Spelling Bee March 13. That bee also was held in a virtual format.

It means that Fletcher, 12, the daughter of Marlo Fletcher and Jayapal Reddy of Steubenville, will have a role in a competition that began in 1925.

She will be competing in preliminary round spelling that will be conducted between 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and which can be viewed on ESPN 3. Quarterfinals will be held from noon to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and can be seen on ESPN 3, while the semifinals are scheduled to be held from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. June 27 and can be seen on ESPN 2 and ESPN U. Those rounds will all be conducted in a virtual format.

When that process is complete, the top 10 to 12 spellers will advance to the national finals. That will be an in-person event that is held from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. July 8 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney Resort in Orlando, Fla. The finals will air on ESPN 2 and ESPN U.

Just getting to this point was a challenge. The 2020 National Bee had to canceled because of concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of the activities leading up to this year’s national competition had to be conducted in a virtual format.

And while there will be no trip to the Washington, D.C., area and no large in-person gatherings, those who have advanced to the national bee will be looking to continue a tradition that can be traced to when Frank Neuhauser correctly spelled the word “gladiolus” to win that first bee.

Among the spellers joining Fletcher this weekend will be Sarah Thompson, 12, who just finished sixth grade at David Anderson Junior-Senior High School, and Lyrick Brown, 14, who just finished eighth grade at Bridgeport Middle School.

Since 1985, the Herald-Star and the Jefferson County Educational Service Center have presented our local regional bee, which is made possible thanks to sponsors including Special Tactics and Rescue Training and Old Glory Embroidery; Ascent Resources; Encino Energy; the Franciscan University of Steubenville; Tri-State Financial Services; Gary Cain Realty and Auctioneers; Gus’s Goodies; McBane Insurance and Financial Services; Huntington Bank; PNC Bank; and the Ohio Lottery Commission. Sponsors on the national level providing prizes include Merriam-Webster Inc. and Encyclopaedia Britannica.

As we have said many times in the past, the dedication and discipline it takes to be successful in academic competitions helps to set a solid foundation for the future.

Please keep that in mind as you join us in wishing Fletcher well as she represents our area in the national bee.

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