WASHINGTON, D.C. — Newfoundland and Labrador Spelling Champ, Mattie Cull, 13, of Roddickton, had the perfect attitude about being part of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. recently.
“You feel special just for being there,” Mattie said. “You have been selected out of so many people and that’s such an accomplishment that you already feel like a winner.”
Mattie, who won the provincial Telegram Spelling Bee in February, competed with over 500 other spellers and made it to round 3 before she was eliminated from the Washington competition This was her second time at the Scripps event and she found this trip much less stressful because of her previous experience.
“I didn’t have to worry so much this time because I knew what to do,” Mattie said. “I didn’t have to stress so much over the preliminaries because I knew what it was all about, what to expect.”
In order to prepare for the event, Mattie practiced every single day.
“I would practice for two hours learning words that were provided and I would flick through the dictionary looking for words and definitions and alternate spellings,” Mattie said. “And I would go on the website and do the words there. Mom would read them out and I would spell them to her.”
Given that the event is a competition, most would expect tension to be running high, but Mattie says the atmosphere is fun and relaxed.
“Everyone is very friendly, they think ‘Let’s make some friends,’” she said. “We all know that with that many competitors, chances are you aren’t going to be the winner. You don’t want to stress yourself out.”
Event organizers do their best to make the trip to the Bee a memorable event for the spellers.
“The Bee just has so much to offer,” Mattie said. “It’s held in a great hotel with a pool, you get a free trip to Washington, you see different things and try different foods and restaurants.”
The Scripps Bee makes an extra effort to ensure the spellers get to know each other and make friends. They require each competitor to submit a short biographical statement and a photo beforehand and they use it to create an ice-breaking game for the kids.
“When you get there, they give you this book called ‘The Bee Keeper’ that has everyone’s information and picture in it,” she said. “But they leave one word blank in each description. You have to find the person and ask them to fill in the missing word. It’s really fun.”
Continuing the tradition
While Mattie has reached the age limit for the Scripps Bee, which only accepts spellers that have not finished eighth grade, she’s got high hopes for one of her family members.
“This was my last year, but I hope that my brother Liam gets to go in the future,” Cull said. “He was co-winner of the Cloud River Academy Spelling Bee this year so I hope he keeps going.”