Local speller hoping for return trip

THE WORD, “hopeful,” probably isn’t among those being faced by the students in the Scripps National Spelling Bee now under way in Washington, D.C., but one speller has a wish to return to the national bee next year regardless of the outcome of this year’s event.

Christine Smith, teacher/spelling coach from the Union Local School District, this morning said that Justin Hamilton, Belmont County’s entry in the national bee, is “excited and very nervous. He’s already talking about next year.”

Justin, whose parents are Paul and Rachel Hamilton, earlier in the week had expressed the hope of competing again next year in the national spelling bee.

The Union Local Middle School student and the other 280 spellers in the bee were faced Tuesday with an innovation in the bee – a vocabulary section. Smith explained in addition to spelling 24 words using a computer keyboard Tuesday, the students had to respond to 24 vocabulary questions of which 12 will count one point each toward the preliminaries score.

Results of Tuesday’s spelling and vocabularies section had not been received by the Belmont County group, as of early today.

Smith said Justin thought Tuesday’s spelling portion of the preliminaries was not so hard but indicated the vocabulary section was very hard.

Today, the 13-year-old Union Local student indicated he was very nervous but is trying to remain calm, according to the teacher/coach.

The preliminaries are on ESPN 3 today until 4:45 p.m., and semifinalists will be announced today around 5 p.m.

Justin and the other students will be on the stage today for spelling. In addition to the initial 24 vocabulary questions Tuesday, spellers are to respond to one multiple-choice vocabulary question in each of Sections C and D. Smith said 36 points can be earned during the preliminaries.

Round 2 was held this morning from 8-11:45, and Round 3 will be this afternoon from 1:15-5:15 p.m. Justin is speller No. 197 so he will be among the spellers in Round 3, competing from 3:15-4:45 p.m.

“He’s out if he misspells in Round 3,” said Smith.

The students attended an assembly Tuesday night, and the pronouncer went over the bee rules with them. “Those are similar to the county bee rules, and Justin is very familiar with that,” said the Union Local teacher/coach.

Thursday’s activities include the national bee semifinals from 2-5 p.m. on ESPN2 and the finals live on ESPN from 8-10 p.m.

Sponsors for the Belmont County Spelling Bee and its champion are The Times Leader, Riesbeck’s Food Markets, Airport Limousine, the East Central Ohio Educational Service Center, Ohio Lottery, The Citizens Bank and AAA Ohio Auto Club.

Pokas can be reached at