Hall advances to National Bee

MARIETTA – River Elementary eighth-grader Peyton Hall may be contestant number 193 at the Scripps National Spelling Bee this week, but he is hoping to be No. 1 at the end of the competition Thursday.

Hall, 14, who lives in Sardis, won the 34th annual Marietta Times Regional Bee in March, and as of Tuesday completed the preliminary vocabulary computer test for the National Bee in Washington, D.C.

Televised competition of the National Bee will begin at 8 a.m. today, and Hall, who is enjoying his first trip to D.C. with his family, said he is confident in his ability to make it past preliminary competition.

“I lug around this huge binder every night with all the words from round two and three, and every night we go through four letters of the alphabet,” he said.

Hall and his mother, Becky, are waiting to hear the results of the computer test, which are due to be emailed this afternoon, that will combine with Hall’s preliminary spelling rounds today to determine if he advances to semi-finals Thursday.

“I’m feeling pretty confident about the spelling test,” Hall said. “The vocabulary part was difficult, but I will be able to make up for it in the spelling portion.”

Hall said he has had trouble with some categories, like words that are named after specific people, but overall thinks competition has gone well.

“I am a bit nervous, but I look at it as an honor to represent our region, so that’s what I’m here for,” he said.

In addition to competition, Hall was given a tour of the Capitol with Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, in addition to a picnic and dance hosted by the Scripps National Bee.

“We’re excited about it, and hopefully with the written test, he will be able to make it through,” Becky Hall said.

Becky, who has served as a district bee coordinator and is an English teacher, said though the vocabulary test has prevented previous regional contestants from moving on to the semi-finals, she thinks it is a positive step.

“When he would study, he would not know what words mean, and I know this will help with that,” she said. “It also will improve his writing, and it has already made him so much better.”

Hall’s three-inch-thick binder, complete with words, origins, definitions and pronunciations, has allowed him to memorize and learn the spelling of every single round two word. Throughout Memorial Day weekend he went to work on round three, in addition to completing just about every available online quiz Scripps offers.

“I would like to do really well on the preliminary computer test, and of course become one of the 50 semifinalists,” Hall said. “My goal is to at least make it through round two.”

Hall said his strength is in German words and words with Greek roots.

“It’s a lot of the Asian-root words that I have found difficult so far,” he said.

Hall and his mother drove to Washington, D.C. with a plan to spend the drive practicing.

“It’s going to feel different knowing it’ll be broadcast all over the world, but it really brings attention to the area,” Hall said. “Someone from our region goes every year, but no one from our district has gone in a long time.”

Ohio has the most contestants out of a total of 281 than any other state or participating U.S. territory, with 19 spellers.

Competition will be streaming live this morning on ESPN3, with broadcasts moving up to televised ESPN once the championship finals take place Thursday evening.

In order to make it to the semi-final round Thursday morning, Hall must meet a minimum combined score of his first two preliminary rounds and the computer test. Both the test and preliminary spelling will each count for 50 percent of the spellers’ scores.

Out of 281 spellers, only 50 will advance to semi-finals, where contestants will take another computer test to determine eligibility in the championship round.

The 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee takes place at the Maryland Ballroom at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md. Preliminary competition will begin streaming live today at 8 a.m., with the championship round airing on ESPN at 8 p.m. Thursday.