2011 SCRIPPS NATIONAL SPELLING BEE - CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS: I only competed in the Spelling Bee once, erring in fifth grade in the Philadelphia competition on dowdily. If there was a way to compete after that, it wasn't made apparent to me, and my schools showed no interest in sponsoring kids for the Bee thereafter. My parents did not push me in any particular academic direction; they were thankful that I was smart and motivated, and encouraged me to free-range in whatever direction my interests led.
Then came MathCounts, which I did in eighth grade. We didn't find out about the City competition until a week before it happened, then showed up and placed something like 1st, 2nd, 4th and 9th among the individual competitors in the field, won the team title and subsequently finished credibly in the state competition. I remained a competitive mathlete as a freshman in high school, but ultimately shifted to the debate/mock trial/Model UN track.
The last such competition I did was the now-defunct Citizen Bee as a senior in high school -- a history/civics/American culture amalgam in which I won the regional competition (with something like ten rounds just with the last two students, even though we both were guaranteed a slot at the state finals), then finished 6th in the state competition because I got an art question and I didn't know anything about Winslow freakin' Homer, other than that it's now twenty-one years later and I still know it's his fault.
Nights like this, in other words, bring back a lot of memories. We begin with thirteen fantastic spellers. Tonight we celebrate the hard work that got them here, and treat their efforts with respect and good cheer. Join us.