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Spelling wiz does well at big event

A local student might be finished with spelling bees this year, but has no intentions of stopping.

Felicity Jenkins, who just finished sixth grade at Symmes Valley Elementary School, spent this past week in Washington, D.C., competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee with 272 other students from around the world. Felicity finished the preliminary rounds Thursday with a total score of 25 of the 27 points needed to advance to Friday’s semifinal round. Only 48 students were able to move up to that level.

“We’re very proud of how she did,” said Scott Jenkins, Felicity’s father. “She’s disappointed because she didn’t make it to the semifinals. She only missed it by two words.”

Felicity said she feels good about how she competed in the school, county, and regional levels, but was a little frustrated with this round.

“Everyone is saying, ‘You did fine, you did fine,’ but I’m a little mad,” Felicity said.

“She’s very competitive,” Jenkins said. “ She’s worked very hard. She’s enjoying it, but it’s hard for her. She has two more years of eligibility. It’s very rare to make the semifinals the first time here. Most of the ones who go on are eighth- graders.”

When asked if she plans to try again next year, she gave a definite “yes.”

For Felicity, that means a major commitment. She spends a lot of time outside of the classroom studying for the competitions.

“We began with the school level, studying an hour or so each day, and then increased it to one and a half to two hours for the county and regional level,” Jenkins said. “After March 6, we probably averaged two and a half to three hours a day at home. Some days four or five hours, others less.”

During competitions, Felicity said she starts out a little nervous.

“At first it’s usually pretty bad, but as it progresses it gets better,” Felicity said.

She said the word that gave her the most trouble this time was “bouleversement,” which means “a violent disturbance,” according to the Merriam-Webster website.

When asked what her favorite part of the competition was, Felicity said, “I liked talking to the other spellers.”

Jenkins said that on Friday, Shaquille O’Neal surprised the spellers when he stopped by and competed in a mock spelling bee with last year’s winner.

Jenkins said in their free time, their family has been able to visit some of the area’s historical points of interest, like the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. They plan to visit the Smithsonian Museum before returning home.

On Saturday, the participants were honored with an award banquet, formal dinner and a party.

Symmes Valley Elementary School principal Bob Harris described Felicity as an outstanding student.

“She’s not just a good speller, but really gifted,” Harris said. “She’s a very talented musician as well.”

“We are extremely proud of her. She represented our district well,” Symmes Valley School District superintendent Jeff Saunders said in an e-mail after Thursday’s elimination.

While Felicity plans to try to make it back to next year’s competition, her plans go even farther than that. She wants to be a neurosurgeon when she grows up.

“It would be kind of fun to operate on people’s brains,” Felicity said.

Anamika Veeramani, eighth-grade student from North Royalton, Ohio, earned first place, with the winning word “stromuhr.”