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Local girl competes in national spelling bee

June 2, 2018 GMT

OXON HILL, Md. — La Conner Middle School eighth-grader Charity Jordan arrived at the Scripps National Spelling Bee as one of 25 three-time participants in the 516-speller field.

And while she was among 179 spellers to place in the top half of the test portion and successfully spell her two on-stage words, she fell short Wednesday of the 28 points needed to advance to the semifinals.

Entering the competition in her final year of eligibility, Charity’s goal was to make the semifinals for the first time. Although she didn’t achieve her goal, she left the competition with her head held high.

“I improved my score, so I’m proud of how I did,” she said. “It’s been an experience of making friends and getting a lot of knowledge.”

Charity was the top Washington speller in the competition as no others survived the live rounds.

“I’ve really seen her work super hard this year,” said Charity’s coach, Sylvia LaMontagne. “She’s really motivated and she’s improved so much and I think that’s far more important than how she ends up placing, because the value of it is really more your work ethic and what you get out of it.”

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LaMontagne, a high school sophomore, is a previous national finalist — she finished fourth in 2016 — and has taken on Charity as one of six pupils this year. The two became friends when LaMontagne was competing in the national bee.

In her first live round, Charity correctly spelled “syssel” which is an Icelandic administrative district.

With words such as “Danube,” “Himalayas,” “Luzon” and “Afghan” making their way into the live rounds, there was a noticeable increase in geographic words.

“We believe that geographical place names are important to know in addition to being great for people to spell,” bee Director Paige Kimble said.

In the second round, Charity correctly spelled “savant,” which is a person with detailed knowledge in a specialized field. Charity later admitted she had never seen the word, but went with the French etymology.

This year’s spelling bee was made more challenging by the introduction of the RSVBee competition.

The program is designed to make up for the lack of spellers from certain regions that have no sponsoring entities.

In addition to 281 regional bee winners such as Charity, there were an additional 238 spellers added to the field. Of the 41 spellers to make the semifinals, 16 were from the RSVBee program.

“It’s harder, but I like it because it gives more people chances to compete,” said Secilia Ugut, Charity’s mother.

For Charity, the national bee experience has been primarily about establishing friendships with other spellers.

In addition to her mother and cousin, Cynthia Ismail, Charity had ninth-grader Lucinda Storz staying with her. Storz competed for Vermont in 2017 but has run out of eligibility.

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Throughout much of the week, Charity has rarely been separated from friends Martius Batista, Rebekah Zeigler, Gabrielle Brown and Storz. According to Brown, they call themselves the GR8 Squad because they were among a group of eight that spent time with each other last year.

“They have a big group, and they support each other, not only for bee, but like science and math. It’s really good for her,” Ugut said.

As for her future goals, Charity wants to return to the national bee as a member of its popular college internship program.

In high school, she plans to take part in debate and has an interest in forensics. She plans on taking a genetics course at Rice University this summer.