Spelling Bee winner bound for D.C.

MORRISTOWN – Bee Week 2013 is finally here.

And for 280 of the nation’s best and brightest youngsters, that means a trip to Washington D.C. to put on their spelling caps and test their mettle against some of the nation’s best spellers in the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee.

This afternoon, 13-year-old Justin Hamilton, his family and his coach are settling into their rooms at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center complex.

The group board shuttle service provided by Airport Limousine early Sunday morning to catch an Amtrak train to the nation’s capital. AAA Ohio Auto Club handled the cost of the transportation.

Today and tomorrow, the students competing in the national bee will have an orientation session.

Monday, the festivities really get under way with a Memorial Day Barbecue at the Pavilions of Turkey Run from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The students will have time to meet and greet and relax. They’ll also get to interact with their fellow competitors from all across the country.

But starting Tuesday morning, it’s time to get down to business as the preliminaries test begins at 8 a.m., with the second row of spelling to follow on Wednesday.

Hamilton has certainly done his fair share of prep work.

This was Hamilton’s third attempt to reach the national bee. His previous attempts resulted in a first-round exit and a runner-up finish last year.

Finally on the big stage, Hamilton’s main concern is putting on a good show as a representative of Belmont County.

“He told me he realizes winning the whole thing will be extremely difficult but that he wants to represent Belmont County well,” said Christine Smith, a teacher at Union Local and one of two designated bee coaches. Smith will be accompanying Hamilton and his family to Washington D.C. “I think he feels that added pressure of representing the area. He realizes he’s so busy that he might not win it all, but he does want to do well.”

Hamilton has certainly been busy.

Along with preparing for the bee by taking multitudes of online quizzes and tests supplied by Scripps, Hamilton has been competing in track and a number of other activities.

He did, however, manage to help raise some money on his own for his trip, including selling baked goods and conducting blanket raffles. Smith said Friday, Union Local presented him with $500 for extra spending money.

The majority of the official team’s expenses are covered. That team consists of Hamilton, his father Paul and Smith. However, Hamilton’s mother and sisters, along with his grandparents and Smith’s husband and two children are coming along.

Smith noted that a call was put in to Rep. Bill Johnson’s office in Washington. While Johnson will not be in town, he has set up for one of his staffers to take Hamilton and his group on a personal tour.

It will be Hamilton’s first trip to the capital, so the trip itself is nearly as exciting as competing on a national stage.

Once action gets under way Wednesday, Hamilton’s focus will be on spelling.

Hamilton is speller No. 197, so his preliminary round will kick off between 10 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. Spellers No. 1-140 start between 8-9:45 a.m.

Round three will be from 3:15-4:45 p.m. Wednesday for Hamilton. Both rounds one and two will be televised live on ESPN3.

All spellers advancing to the semifinals will participate in a computer-based test Wednesday night.

The semifinals begin at 2 p.m. Thursday on ESPN2, with the finals airing live on ESPN from 8-10 p.m. Thursday night.

While the spelling ends Friday, the activities do not. Tours around the D.C. area are slated for Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. An awards banquet will be held at 6 p.m. and a farewell party starts at 9 p.m. and runs until midnight.

There are two other areas spellers making the trip to Washington, D.C. Lillian Taylor Bischof of Wheeling, a sixth-grader from St. Michael Parish School and sponsored by The Catholic Spirit in Wheeling is going, along with Nathan James Keenan, a 13-year-old seventh grader from Toronto. Keenan is sponsored by the Herald Star.

The Belmont County Spelling Bee and its champion are sponsored by The Times Leader, Riesbeck’s Food Markets, Airport Limousine, the East Central Ohio ESC, the Ohio Lottery, The Citizens Bank and AAA Ohio Auto Club.