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WUNC's education coverage is led by reporters Dave Dewitt and Reema Khrais. Dewitt has been with the station since 2003. Khrais is focused on Education Policy Reporting. Browse recent stories here.

One Young NC Competitor Sings Her Responses At The National Spelling Bee

Bettie Lehem Closs
Scripps National Spelling Bee

I lost on the word "laundromat." It bothers me to this day. I was competing in the Epsom Central School (NH) annual spelling bee. It was intense. I remember leaning back, my head propped on the edge of the headrest between words, silently mouthing prayers aimed at the ceiling. For some reason, I hadn't practiced from the list of provided words, but I read a lot, so I thought I had a good chance.

It was getting towards the end of the bee, and the teacher read out my word. "Laundromat." She said it twice, her diction precise.

Now, I knew how to spell "laundromat." I knew it as much as I have ever known any word in my life. I passed a very large sign every day, one that directed locals to a place where they could wash their clothes.

And so I spelled the word exactly as it was spelled on the sign: "L-A-U-N-D-E-R-M-A-T." With confidence. Perhaps even a smile. And I lost.

Tomorrow, 14 youngsters from North Carolina will be making their own spelling bee memories at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC.

Speller 170 is ten-year-old Bettie Lehem Closs of Durham.

"Bettie has so many hobbies and interests that it sometimes seems like she has barely any room for spelling!," her official bio reads.  In addition to gymnastics, chorus, computers and drawing Bettie has a passion for deep sea fishing.

"She loves hopping on a small boat, sailing 25 miles or more into the ocean, and spending time with her line. She once received special recognition from the governor of North Carolina for catching an especially large fish."

Katie Danis, 8th grade, Gaston Day School, Gastonia, NC
Credit Scripps National Spelling Bee
Katie Danis, 8th grade, Gaston Day School, Gastonia, NC

Speller 172 is a 14-year-old from Gastonia, NC. Katie Danis is passionate about the Greek and Roman classics. (She recently received a perfect score on the National Mythology Exam and a summa cum laude rating on the National Latin Exam.)

But even with such success, Katie reports that when she's nervous, she sings.

Last year, each time the moderator asked Katie to spell a word, she did so, in song.

Shiv Patel, 8th grade, Turrentine Middle School, Burlington, NC
Credit Scripps National Spelling Bee
Shiv Patel, 8th grade, Turrentine Middle School, Burlington, NC

And lest we worry about the competitors and fear for them when they lose, meet Burlington's Shiv Patel (Speller 167.) Shiv is dedicated to his understanding of words. He has already written a 50,000+ word novel.

But at the same time, he's also dedicated to being in top physical form for the competition. (He reports drinking 12 glasses of water per day when he's immersed in studying words.)

Shiv is not afraid of losing. He says that he "...looks up to Walt Disney because even after the entrepreneur was rejected and fired for not being creative enough, he persevered and went on to do extraordinary things."

Meet more North Carolinians participating this week in the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Carol Jackson has been with WUNC since 2006. As Digital News Editor, she writes stories for, and helps reporters and hosts make digital versions of their radio stories. She is also responsible for sharing stories on social media. Previously, Carol spent eight years with WUNC's nationally syndicated show The Story with Dick Gordon, serving as Managing Editor and Interim Senior Producer.
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