Friday, June 4, 2010

INTERMEZZO: So, what is the final afternoon before primetime like? Our friend Mary Ann Grisham, mother of 2008 eighth-place finisher Cat Cojocaru, explains:
After being named a Championship Finalist on mid-day Friday, the whirlwind hit. Nerves, joy, exhaustion, exhilaration, fear, disbelief, pinch me-I’m dreaming……and that was just the parents. I’m sure the kids’ feelings were intensified tenfold.

Thursday evening, Scripps held a dinner for the semi-finalists and families and thoroughly explained what Finalists could expect in terms of scheduling for the fortunate spellers that would advance to the ABC Championship finals. So the whirlwind of activity was not a complete surprise. I have to give complete credit to the Scripps officials - they are professionals, well-organized, and go out of their way to ensure that ALL spellers feel like champions, not just the lucky few that advance.

Immediately after the ESPN round finished, the press conference began and the spellers were given a schedule for the rest of the day. The schedule varies slightly each year, depending on whether the finalists will be able to visit the White House. In 2008, the finalists were not able to schedule a visit with the President, so their afternoon schedule went something like this:

3:00 – Press Conference, immediately following ESPN Semi-Finals

3:30 – Snack & debriefing in the Family Room

4:00 – Individual interviews with Scripps PR in preparation for Sat. banquet

4:30 – Hair & Makeup…for the whole family…..parents included!

4:55 – Individual interview with ABC/ESPN hosts (Tim, Paul & Erin in our case)

5:15 - Personal Time & local media interviews

6:30 - Private Dinner for Spellers and Families…security was tight & strictly enforced. Dinner was held in the Family room, and was a nice buffet. Cat was the only person who noticed that the Hyatt Catering staff misspelled “Mediterranean” on the buffet menu …light-hearted moment amidst the stress.

7:30 – Report to the stage. Spellers & families were escorted up to the Ballroom via a huge freight elevator, reserved for high security types, so they did not have to enter in via the main Ballroom.

8:00 – Lights, Camera, Action, Spell!

Here’s wishing all the spellers best of luck tonight, and thanks again to the Scripps staff for giving my family a week full of wonderful memories that will last a lifetime.


  1. BeeFan6:04 PM

    I don't know if Cat's school year is over or not (they must get some snow days up her way), so I don't know if she got to watch this afternoon, but when Loeffler breezily mentioned how rarely Russian words come up I imagined Cat frowning at the TV.

  2. Cat Cojocaru6:04 PM

    Hi Adam,
    Not to be picky, but I finished in 8th place, not 9th. Thanks!

  3. isaac_spaceman6:06 PM

    But first in our hearts, Cat. 

  4. Fixed! 

  5. Cat Cojocaru6:08 PM

    @BeeFan--I had finals today, so I couldn't see it, but I would definitely have glared, haha!
    @isaac_spaceman--thanks! (:

  6. Marsha6:10 PM

    You should totally get the day off on Bee day. We need you here, commentating with your mom!

  7. Do you remember what they told you in 2008 about the possibility of a split round before prime time?  How would you have reacted to what happened today?

  8. Cat Cojocaru6:15 PM

    The issue had never come up before. When my mother texted me today I was really quite shocked. Honestly I would have been upset if I was one of the kids out before the split, but I know the Bee has the best interest of the kids in mind. They treat everyone pretty equally.

  9. Charles6:44 PM

    <span>Cat may have the best speller name ever. 
    Cat (and mom), when were the tours and other activities during Bee Week? When I competed and worked on the staff, they stretched across three days (Monday, Tuesday, and most of Friday; the awards banquet was Friday night).</span>

  10. Cat Cojocaru6:46 PM

    Well the barbecue is usually on Monday (Memorial Day), with tours on Tuesday. This year it seems they changed it up a little and perhaps had tours on both Tuesday and Wednesday? It is all up to the discretion of the Bee planners.

  11. Heather P7:33 PM

    Thanks so much to Cat and to Mary Ann for posting this -- it's so fascinating to me how much changed and didn't change when the Bee moved to the TV age.