- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 30, 2002

The word "nephrolithotomy" might stump the average 14-year-old, but it was a breeze for Amanda Hyde. She stepped to the microphone yesterday and spelled the medical term without hesitation during the first round of the 75th Annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee.
Amanda, an eighth-grader who attends Calvert Middle School in Prince Frederick, Md., was one of the 250 spelling whizzes who descended upon the District this week to compete in the prestigious annual event. The winner of the two-day spelling bee at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Northwest gets a $12,000 prize.
Although this is Amanda's first trip to the national spelling bee, she has had lots of practice competing. She first started spelling polysyllabic words in the sixth grade, and she's been at it ever since. The petite captain of her school's cheerleading squad said she gets a little help from a friend: Mom, the 24/7 quizzer and judge. But Amanda said she tries to use her extra time wisely when preparing for any competition.
"I study on the way to the bus, and I study after classes and during TV commercials. And I study before I go to bed, and my mom quizzes me," Amanda said.
Melissa Hyde, Amanda's mother, waited with her daughter outside the Independence Ballroom where the event is being held.
"I think this is a great experience for all of the kids they're loving every minute of it. And they're all so smart. They're amazing," Mrs. Hyde said.
"The dedication and time that they all devote to studying is just amazing," she said.
Where Amanda is concerned, Mrs. Hyde might be a little biased, but she said both she and her husband, Joseph, couldn't be prouder of their daughter.
Not everyone breezed through the first round as easily as Amanda did. For example, the spelling of "amaryllis" eliminated one young lady and "ayatollah" took its toll on a young man at the competition. Whether they misspelled the word or spelled it correctly, all of the contestants got a hearty round of applause from the audience.
Jeremiah James Rodriguez Belocura, 13, moved to Round 2 after correctly spelling the word "internecion" a term for "massacre." The bespectacled youth, who attends Morehead Middle School in El Paso, Texas, seemed confident about his abilities. It's the waiting that's nerve-racking, he said. Jeremiah studies a word list, but he also studies spelling books.
"I try to study as much as I can and it helps to look at the word history its origin and the definition," he said.
The Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee isn't new to the Belocura family. Jeremiah's father, Jerome, said two years ago his daughter Joreen competed in the bee. Now it's his son's turn.
"I'm very proud of my children. They both play the piano and the violin. And now they have both competed in the spelling bee. I guess it's in the blood," he said with a smile.
Mr. Belocura, 40, gives all the credit to their mother, Jonnalyn , whom he describes as a "very good speller."
Before Round 2 got underway, Bria Wash, 13 and her new friend John Brooks, 13, grabbed some lunch at the hotel cafe. Both contestants aced Round 1 with words like "Iatrogenic," and "spiccato," respectively.
Bria, who is home-schooled in Anderson, Ind., credits her love of books and reading for her spelling skills. She also studies "Nat's Notes," a book she said last year's winner referred to consistently.
"My parents tell me to study one hour a day [to prepare for the spelling bee]. But, I usually study 30 minutes everyday," Bria said. Home schooling works for her, she said.
"My day begins around 8 a.m. instead of 5:30 a.m. We don't have a set schedule, but my days are very busy. We don't do a lot of reading directly from a textbook it's more hands-on," she said.
Her new friend John, who attends Carthage Middle School in Carthage, Ill., and who is being sponsored by the Quincy Herald-Whig newspaper, said it wasn't so much the pressure of the spelling bee, but rather being asked to spell a word that was unfamiliar. This is John's first national spelling bee, so to be on the safe side, his mother printed out additional words for him to study from the Internet, he said.
John was a little nervous about Round 2 this is the first year contestants have to complete a written test, which consists of 25 words.
When asked what he would do if he becomes the new champion and returns home with the $12,000, John said, "I would like to spend $1,000 and put the rest towards college."


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