Grace Parrott (back row) is on stage getting ready to spell in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in late May. (Photo courtesy Katie Jo Parrott)

A Ketchikan eighth-grader – soon to enter high school – had a once-in-a-lifetime experience as a competitor in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Grace Parrott didn’t make it to the final round, but she is happy with her performance.

“The first time, I got the word ‘ostinato.’ And I spelled it correctly, yay!”

And what does ostinato mean?

“You know, for the life of me, I could not tell you.”

Luckily, when you’re up on stage to spell, definitions are not that important.

So, Schoenbar Middle School eighth-grader Grace Parrott made it through round two – which is the first round of on-stage spelling at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Her second word, the next day, was “benthic.”

“And I had absolutely no idea what that word was going into it, so I was like, ‘Oh, no. This is bad.’ But, I asked all the questions which is the strategy for when you’re in the spelling bee,” she said. “You ask for the root and the language of origin and you ask for all the information you can get to help you figure out what the word is and stuff.”

Ketchikan eighth-grader Grace Parrott at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. (Photo courtesy Katie Jo Parrott)

And she got that word right, too.

But, that was the end of Grace’s national bee experience. While she got all her spelling words right, her vocabulary score on the written test earlier in the competition wasn’t quite high enough to get her into the final round.

“However, I’m actually really proud of myself because I didn’t misspell a word,” she said. “And I made it. I didn’t get out in the second or third round, and that’s an accomplishment to me.”

Grace placed 42nd, along with any other participant who didn’t misspell a word but didn’t score high enough to move on to finals.

Grace’s mom, Katie Jo Parrott, said there were probably 200 kids who tied for 42nd place. Only 41 went on to the final round, because the required score on the written test was so high.

“The preliminary test, they had a possible 30 points and in order to move to the finals, you had to score 28,” she said.

Grace and her mom say they were both nervous each time Grace got up to spell on stage.

“One recurring nightmare that I have is that I trip and fall and knock over the mic, and fall off the stage,” she said. “When I was up, when I was going and standing right before I was going to (spell), I literally thought I was going to throw up. It was so scary.”

But, once it was her turn and she was actually spelling, Grace said she relaxed. Because whether it’s the classroom spelling bee, or the national bee – it’s the same format, and that was familiar territory.

The whole event, Grace said, was a great experience and she got to know other spellers.

“Actually, I was kind of surprised. I was going into it expecting everybody to be like, ‘No fraternizing with the enemy.’ Except  that’s not really what happened,” she said. “There were people who set points for studying, and there were groups that got together to study and we hung out with each other. It was actually a lot of fun and I made a lot of new friends.”

Grace said she also has learned a lot about the English language, word origins and, of course, spelling.

Grace was the district spelling bee winner for Ketchikan, and then went to the state competition. She didn’t win at state, but still was able to attend the national bee through a special program. Read about how Grace got to attend the bee here