KINSMAN - An area spelling bee star appeared to have nerves of steel as she prepared to compete against other spellers from across the U.S. and countries such as Jamaica, China, Japan and Guam.
''I'm not really too worried about winning. I'm just glad about going,'' said Rebekah Stanhope, 13, who recently took home the first-place prize for the second year in a row at the 22nd annual Tribune Chronicle Spelling Bee. Along with a spot in the national bee, Stanhope won a Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary, a 2013 United States Proof Set from Jay Sugarman in honor of his father, and a one-year membership to Britannica Online Premium donated by Encyclopaedia Britannica.
It also is Stanhope's second time attending the national competition in Washington, D.C.
Rebekah Stanhope, 13, of Kinsman, speaks Thursday about preparations for the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. It is Stanhope’s second year attending the national competition. Tribune Chronicle photos / R. Michael Semple
''I think it's exciting going to the national spelling bee because it's televised,'' she said with a small smile. ''There's definitely a lot of people, so it's really good to meet everyone.''
Stanhope, a 7th-grader at Joseph Badger Middle School, learned more than 400 words in preparation for the competition, studying for at least an hour a day since the regional bee in March. She also tests her skills on the Scripps spelling bee website.
Although Stanhope couldn't think of a particular word that trips her up, she said one thing has the ability to rattle her.
''When the pronouncer waits a long time to say if you're correct or not,'' she said, smiling.
Her favorite word is glockenspiel, an instrument as well as the word that brought her victory during last year's regional competition.
''Learning about the etymology of the words, it's really interesting,'' she said.
Another perk of being a great speller is being able to read more advanced books without having to consult a dictionary. Stanhope read one of her favorite books, ''The Lord of the Rings,'' a fantasy novel written by English philologist and University of Oxford professor J. R. R. Tolkien, when she was in fourth grade.
Badger principal Robert Moon said Stanhope is the first student from the school to go reach nationals.
''She's self-motivated,'' he said.
Her mother, Christina Stanhope, agreed.
''It's not something I make her do. Her memory has always been a strong point. I always knew she would do something impressive. She started out that way,'' she said, recalling that Stanhope memorized excerpts from poems by Robert Frost and William Shakespeare when she was 18 months old.
Although admitting that she now has a pretty extensive vocabulary compared with other youths her age, Stanhope says she doesn't always use it in casual conversation.
''No one really has any idea what I'm talking about,'' she said.