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May 28, 2014

National Spelling Bee: Wabash Valley speller Kimmie Collins improves score from last year but fails to advance to semifinals

WASHINGTON — For the second year in a row, Kimmie Collins successfully spelled her words while on stage during Rounds 2 and 3 of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

And, she improved her overall score from last year. The score incorporates on-stage spelling, computer-based spelling questions and computer-based vocabulary questions.

But Collins, an eighth-grader at Woodrow Wilson Middle School, fell two points shy of progressing to the semifinals this year.

Forty-six spellers advanced to semifinals, and the score needed to advance was 28; Kimmie’s score was 26.

“I’m okay,” she said, soon after she learned the results early Wednesday evening. “I’m really disappointed I didn’t make it to semifinals.”

She worked very hard and studied year-round to make a return trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee this year — and her goal also was to advance to semifinals.

“I’ve been told the test was much harder than last year,” she said. All the semifinalists were within one point of each other, she added.

Despite her disappointment, the 14-year-old said her two trips to the National Spelling Bee “have been an absolutely amazing experience. I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world — even the hours I’ve put in studying.”

She thanked all those who have helped her — friends, family and people at school. “Everyone has been so supportive,” she said.

And she still made the world stage just by participating in the national bee. She was interviewed by The Washington Post and other media outlets. “That was awesome,” she said.

She’s one of several spellers featured in a Washington Post newspaper online video that asks the competitors why they spell. She told the interviewer that spelling is similar to a sport, even if it doesn’t require athletic abilities, because “you do have to show dedication and practice.”

Last year, she was interviewed by a media outlet from Australia.

Meeting spellers from around the country and world “has definitely been one of the best experiences of my life,” Kimmie said. “Some of them are so different than me, yet we’re so much the same” in many ways.

She’s quickly made many new friends; on Sunday, spellers received “beekeeper” books with random facts about the spellers. They sign each other’s books and offer words of encouragement.

Kimmie said she’s happy for those who did make it to semifinals.

The experience of two national spelling bees has changed her, she said. She’s much better with time management and has much more self-confidence. “I feel like I can walk up to someone and make friends and communicate with them more easily,” she said. “It’s just been truly wonderful.”

Now, she’s looking forward to summer vacation, spending time with Terre Haute friends and staying in touch with her new National Spelling Bee friends. Next fall, she will be a freshman at Terre Haute North Vigo High School.

Her mother, Debbie, told the Tribune-Star, “We’re very proud of her. She’s worked really hard and had a lot of fun. She’s met a lot of people; it’s definitely been a great experience.”

The family heard that this year, “it was a really tight field,” Debbie Collins said.

Earlier in the day, Kimmie made it out of Round 2 by spelling the word “dreidel,” which is a four-sided toy used in a game of chance. In Round 3, she successfully spelled the word “shenanigans.”

Kimmie, the Wabash Valley Regional Spelling Bee champion, qualified for the national competition for the second year in a row.

A total of 281 spellers from 50 states and several other countries entered the competition; they ranged in age from 8 to 15 years.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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