Press Release – Vegemite Spelling Bee
Despite months of a punishing study schedule and learning around 10,000 new words, New Zealand’s NZ Vegemite Spelling Bee Champion Ryan McLellan’s dream of taking out top honours at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in America ended today with …May 30th 2012
Keeshond spells the end for Ryan
Despite months of a punishing study schedule and learning around 10,000 new words, New Zealand’s NZ Vegemite Spelling Bee Champion Ryan McLellan’s dream of taking out top honours at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in America ended today with the word ‘Keeshond’.
Thirteen year-old Ryan, a Year Nine student at James Hargest College, Invercargill, was caught out by the word during the Preliminary Oral Round in what is known as the Olympics of Spelling, The Scripps National Spelling Bee, held in Maryland near Washington DC today.
Ryan got one letter wrong, spelling it ‘keyshond’. Keeshond is a Dutch breed of dog.
Ryan, known for his practical, no fuss approach to representing New Zealand at the Scripps event, was disappointed but philosophical:
“Competing at this level, the words are really hard. I would have been really stoked to just make it to the semi finals. But that wasn’t to be. Getting this far is fantastic.”’
Words spelled on stage included the words ‘Impapyrated’, ‘Zapateado’, ‘Beetewk’ and’ Engastrimythic’.
Ryan’s mum Stacey McLellan, who has travelled with Ryan to the event, said, “Ryan’s done incredibly well to get this far and we’re all really proud of him.”
There was some accent confusion between the Dr Jacques Bailly, Pronouncer, and Ryan when he up on stage to spell his first word. Ryan struggled to understand the American pronunciation of the word ‘taupe’. The word was pronounced “tope’, which baffled Ryan and required several interchanges with the Pronouncer before he could spell the word.
It was an anxious moment and the audience, relieved and charmed by Ryan’s New Zealand accent, let out thunderous applause when he correctly spelled the word.
Ryan was not alone in his disappointment, from a pool of 278 spellers, only 50 made it through to the semi finals. Eleven million youngsters, mainly from the United States and eight other countries tried out for a chance to compete at the prestigious event.
Ryan’s winning streak started when he gained a top spelling score at his school, then took top honours at the Lower South Island Spelling Bee, and went on to take the title of Champion at the NZ Vegemite Spelling Bee Final held in Wellington.
For Ryan, who until late last year was unaware of the Spelling Bee competition, winning the NZ Champion title has been life changing, including learning to cope with the unexpected media attention.
“It has been a crash course in a lot of things. I’ve had to make a lot of time for my spelling study, I got my first job after school to save spending money, I’ve never been out of New Zealand before and I’ve had to learn to deal with media interviews.”
Janet Lucas, Event Manager of the New Zealand Vegemite Spelling Bee, says Ryan has handled it all with great maturity and good sense.
“Ryan has coped really well with all the changes winning the NZ title has brought to his life. Travelling to America, meeting other spellers and seeing the highlights of Washington DC is an amazing prize package and a great reward for all his efforts.”
The 13 year-old is New Zealand’s eighth speller to represent the country at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The 278 spellers represent all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe. Spellers also come from the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
As well as winning the coveted title and massive media attention, the Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion wins a US $30,000 cash prize, an engraved trophy and one of the final print editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica among other prizes.
The Scripps Spelling Bee runs over three days and the Final is at 8pm to 10pm (12.30 pm to 2pm NZ time) on Thursday May 31st and will air live in the United States on ESPN.
2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee
Some words from Round Two Test