- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2003

D.C. resident Jodie Singer, 11, was spellbound yesterday when it came to spelling “demesne,” a word with a silent “s.” The sixth-grader carefully enunciated d-e-m-a-i-n-e, the original old French spelling, and was eliminated on the first day of the National Spelling Bee.

Jodie, a student at Ben W. Murch Elementary School in Northwest, fell short of her goal of getting into the second round of the spelling competition, even after spending months studying a list of 500 words.

“I studied my head off and made it,” the still-glowing youngster said following the first round of the contest. “It feels good to get here, but I wish I had gotten farther,” said Jodie, who lives in Northwest.

Jodie explained that she was not prepared for the word, defined as legal possession of land as one’s own. She said after the first round she could not remember whether she was nervous when she stepped up to spell her word or was just concentrating on what she remembered from practicing day and night and everywhere she went.

Jodie’s father, Harold Singer, said he was proud of his daughter and thrilled that she succeeded in reaching the National Spelling Bee. He said there was one problem he had in helping her prepare for the event.

“The hard part is, a lot of these words I can’t pronounce,” he said.

How students prepare for the spelling competition is the subject of a new documentary television show called “Spellbound” that will debut this weekend.

Jodie, who was sponsored by the Washington Informer, was among the younger spellers in the 76th Annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. Contestants ranged from age 8 to age 15, but most were age 13 and in eighth grade.

The beginning of the competition was preceded by a couple days of fun for the contestants. On Sunday they watched “Spellbound,” which follows the lives of eight children trying to win the bee, and on Monday they had a barbecue.

The championship round will be held today and the $12,000 prize will be given to the winner at an awards banquet tomorrow.

Of the total 251 contestants, 167 were public-school students; 35 were from private schools; 31 were home schooled and 18 attended parochial institutions.

There were nine contestants from Virginia, seven from Maryland and one from the District. The girls had a one-person advantage, with 126 participating compared to 125 boys.

After the first round early yesterday, a second-round written spelling test narrowed the field to 80.

Ashley Mangalindan, 13, from Waldorf, Md., competed in the second round. After spending part of her weekend in the emergency room with an ear infection and a fever, the Mattawoman Middle School eighth-grader’s luck began to change Monday morning.

She correctly spelled “sansculottic” in the first round, qualifying for the second.

Ashley said she had hoped to walk away with $1,000 in the competition, but she didn’t make it to the third round after misspelling a number of words on the written test.

This was her first time in the national competition, but she has been competing in spelling bees for the past four years.

“It started when I was in fourth grade. There was a school spelling bee, and I beat a sixth-grader.”

Ashley made it to the regionals that year and to the county finals the next three.

“I could see it coming,” she said.

“I knew she could do it. She has a photographic memory,” said one of her teachers, who was sure the time had come for Ashley to perform strongly.

The eighth-grader, sponsored by the Maryland Independent, was studying words on the Internet to get down pronunciations and often was looking up words independently.

She would correct her teacher and fellow students when they pronounced a word wrong, said Yolanda Hume, the language-arts department chair at Ashley’s school.

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