While Bettie Closs was eliminated in the final rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee Thursday afternoon, the Durham seventh-grader only had positive thoughts about her experience.
“I’m feeling fabulous,” she said a few hours after misspelling “caliginous,” an adjective meaning misty or dark.
She nearly reached the primetime finals on ESPN Thursday night, which featured just 10 spellers. This was her third year qualifying for the national bee and the first time she had reached the finals. She tied for 15th place overall.
“How am I supposed to be upset about that?” she said.
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Bettie, who attends Lucas Middle School, was the only remaining Triangle speller at the bee, which was at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center outside of Washington.
She was notified of her misspelling by a bell on the judges’ table, but she said she had prepared herself mentally, just in case she heard it ring.
“It really worked,” she said. “I had no problem whatsoever with hearing that ding.”
Earlier in the day, she correctly spelled “wootz,” which she said surprised her because of its simplicity. She also correctly spelled “flabelliform.”
“People were getting some pretty darn crazy words,” she said.
At Wednesday’s preliminary onstage rounds, she correctly spelled “escarole” and “emancipatory,” which helped her become one of the 45 students to advance to Thursday’s round.
Bettie has received support from the community through a Facebook page that keeps up with Bettie at the competition, appropriately called “Bee for Bettie.”
“I feel like a celebrity,” Bettie said.
After three years at the bee, she said she plans to do it all again next year when she’s in the eighth grade. Her main competitor is her sister, Hanna Closs. This year at the Duke Regional Spelling Bee, Bettie and Hanna went head to head for 19 rounds.
“She says, and I say too, that we should just keep going and exhaust the entire word list,” Bettie said jokingly. “And they may have to declare co-champions.
“You need friendly competition,” she said.
Eva Alessandra Vega of Charlotte, the only other speller from North Carolina to advance to the finals, was also eliminated Thursday when she misspelled “cypripedium.” She is a 12-year-old sixth-grader at Carmel Christian School.
The entire competition started with 285 students from all over the country, including three other Triangle students. In addition to onstage questions, they took a multiple choice test.
The Triangle students are Rahul Sachdev, a fifth-grade home-schooler from Cary; Abigail Pittman, an eighth-grader at Southside Christian School in Clayton; and Kellan Rhys All, a seventh-grader at Harnett Central Middle School in Angier.
Paige Connelly: 919-460-2609, @pconnellly