NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Grant Flora was part of spelling bee history.
Flora, eighth-grader at West Noble Middle School, competed in the 92nd Scripps National Spelling Bee last week.
He was eliminated after the third round even though he spelled both on-stage words correctly. The first round was a written spelling and vocabulary test. The second round began the on-stage oral spelling. The judges took a combined score of the competitor’s tests and spelling skills to see who would move on to the fourth round.
He spelled “lapilli” correctly in the second round and “mauvette” correctly in the third.
But this year was the first of all of the spelling bees that there were eight winners. On the Scripps website, it called the group the “octochamps.” They spelled for 20 rounds with no eliminations.
Flora said overall it was a great experience.
“It was pretty awesome and fun,” Flora said. “It was a little intimidating, but it was also pretty cool.”
Flora said he wasn’t really nervous about the writing test he took May 27. He’s not a person who gets nervous for tests.
“To me, it was just another test,” Flora said.
But round two was a different story. He said he was a little bit nervous because it was the first time he had to stand on stage to spell.
“Tuesday (May 28) I was a little bit nervous for round two, but I knew these were words that I studied before, so I had a good chance,” Flora said.
His goal going into the competition was to make it past round two. With that accomplished, he went on to round three on May 29.
“For round three, I was kind of nervous, but for me, it was just gravy,” Flora said. “I just felt that it was awesome because I just knew that I was going up against really good competition. Those spellers were really good, so it was awesome to be part of this.”
His family traveled there with him. He called it “a vacation just with spelling.” Flora said it was nice to be able to have his family watch him compete.
This is the last year he is eligible to compete in this particular spelling bee.
Jennifer Flora, Grant Flora’s mother, was nervous for the first round because the competitors didn’t seem to misspell many of the words.
“I have kind of thought that it was fine,” Jennifer Flora said. “Whatever happens, happens. But when kids weren’t missing, I was hoping that he wouldn’t be in the minority and miss in the first round. I was relieved when he spelled correctly.”
Jennifer Flora said she was shocked that he spelled his second round word right.
“We were super proud of him when he spelled both words correctly,” Jennifer Flora said. “The first day that he spelled, that was on a 600-word list that we had studied. The second day, those were random words. So when he spelled ‘mauvette’ correctly, I didn’t expect him to get it right because he doesn’t care at all about colors. We were shocked because we didn’t think he would know that it is related to the word mauve.”
She wasn’t disappointed when he didn’t make it to the next round because she was proud of his performance.
“He amazed us,” Jennifer Flora said. “He continues to do that. The kid has ice water in his veins apparently. He seems super calm. We’re super proud of him, and we’re super grateful for the opportunity.”
She was floored by how the community interest of her son competing. Kathy Hagan, school board member at West Noble, changed the dates of a trip she was going on to watch him compete, according to Jennifer Flora. She was getting text messages, calls and Facebook messages from all kinds of people in the community. They all wanted to know how he was doing.
“It reminded me how cool our community is,” Jennifer Flora said. “The comments and things when I would post a picture, I would get all kinds of responses. Lori Miller-Phares, secretary at the high school, did a live watch show on Facebook. It really reinforced to us that we live in a special place.”