IT UNDOUBTEDLY will be a tense time for 278 contestants, including Belmont County Spelling Champion Marcus Clark, when the semifinalists in the Scripps National Spelling Bee will be announced today around 5 p.m.
Fifty or so spellers will advance to the semifinals.
Clark was to take to the stage today for Rounds 2 and 3 of the national bee, which was being televised by ESPN 3. The 12-year-old youth, a sixth grader in Martins Ferry's middle school, was scheduled to participate on stage in Round 2 at 10 a.m. and in Round 3 at 3:30 p.m.
Barbie McKeegan, spelling bee coordinator at the middle school, said Clark took the written test which included 50 words Tuesday, and he said he thought "half of them were easy and half were hard, but he thinks he did well."
Only 25 spellings from Tuesday's event count toward each speller's score.
An assembly featuring the head judge and head pronouncer, who explained the rules and procedures for today's competitions, was held Tuesday night.
McKeegan said Clark had more family time Tuesday as his maternal grandparents, Barb and Joe Younkins of Martins Ferry, had arrived for the activities. Already in Washington, D.C., for the national bee were the spelling champion's parents, Ryan and Heidi Clark, and his sister, Maria. The family gathering also included an uncle, who lives in the Washington area.
Competitors in the national bee range in age from 6-15, and Clark is among 84 percent of the spellers, which are between the ages of 12 and 14. This year's bee includes the youngest speller on record in the Scripps National Spelling Bee - a precocious 6-year-old named Lori Anne Madison from Woodbridge, Va.
The champion spellers in the bee include three 2011 championship finalists, Nabeel Rahman, Arvind Mahankali and Samuel Estep. Twenty spellers have at least one relative who has competed in previous national finals.
Favorite words for the spellers include cwm, serendipity and humuhumunukunukuapuaa. Clark, however, favors autoschediastic, astrophysicist and otorhinolaryngology.
Clark is the first Martins Ferry student to be named champion in the county bee, sponsored by The Times Leader and Riesbeck's, which also provided an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the national bee for Clark, a parent and the spelling coach. Those two sponsors also provided the traveling trophy, which went to the middle school in Martins Ferry.
In addition to the all-expenses paid trip provided by The Times Leader and Riesbeck's Food Markets, Clark received prizes from other sponsors. Included are travel courtesy of Airport Limousine Service Inc. and AAA Ohio Auto Club, a $500 cash prize courtesy of The Citizens Bank, a first-place trophy, a Webster's Third New International Dictionary, The Samuel Louis Sugarman Award, a plaque with the two winner words for school display, a one-year subscription to Britannica Online for kids and an Amazon.com gift certificate.
Pokas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.