Fifth grader ties for 47th at Scripps spelling bee

bbashioum@demo-mo.comJune 6, 2014 

Are you smarter than a fifth grader?

You may be if you know that a “sporran” is name of the pouch that is worn in front of the kilt with a Scots Highland dress. Joel Miles does.

Or did you know that a group of three people, things, or countries, could be called a “troika”? Joel knows that, too.

An 11-year-old Eagle Glen Intermediate School fifth grader was within a hairline margin of making it to the semifinals round of the 87th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee.

“I recognized the words when they gave them to me,” Joel said, but admitted that he was a bit nervous taking the stage. “I did have quite a bit of butterflies before I went onto the stage. It went away when (I) got up to the mic.”

Classmates had given Joel an autographed school T-shirt prior to his departure, in which he wore as a good luck charm during his travels.

Joel was sponsored by the Cass County Democrat Missourian to attend the bee, held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., near Washington, D.C. May 27-29.

After correctly completing two rounds of oral spelling, and combining the results of a computer-based spelling and vocabulary test, Joel was tied for 47th place out of bee’s 281 spellers.

Using the scores from the computerized test, bee judges had to incorporate the results to narrow down the remaining pool of 281 spellers to 50 or less.

But this year, only the top 46 spellers were selected to advance to the semifinals, and Joel’s impressive spelling abilities on stage wasn’t quite enough to make it to the semifinals.

“Somebody set the bar really high in the computer test,” Joel said. “It was close.”

But that’s OK. Joel was also stoked to visit some of the famous landmarks in the region during first time visit to the nation’s capitol.

After qualifying to participate in the national bee by correctly spelling “automaton” to win the Cass County Spelling Bee title in March, Joel was already anxious to visit the nation’s capitol. Joel said he had already been looking at a travel guide to D.C. in case he’d won.

Along with parents, Joel visited Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, rode on the new Capital Ferris Wheel at National Harbor, saw the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, and had the opportunity to watch a presidential motorcade.

He also had the opportunity to play a game of soccer with other competitors. He even scored a goal.

While in Washington, D.C., Joel also competed against two other spellers from the Kansas City area, including Kush Sharma of Kansas City and four-time contestant Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kan.

The competition included grade- and middle-schoolers from all 50 U.S. states, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Department of Defense Schools in Europe, the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea, and ranged in age from 8 to 15 years old.

Joel also had the opportunity to watch the championship round of the Scripps bee May 29 when history was made after the bee ended in a tie.

Sriram Hathwar, 14, and Ansun Sujoe, 13, both earned trophies after they exhausted a special 25-word championship list.

Only three times in the past, in 1950, 1957 and 1962, has the bee declared co-champions.

“It’s been really amazing,” said Joel, of the trip. “It’s been by far my favorite trip that I’ve ever taken.”

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