Cedarville speller studies hard, hopes for luck Sunday night

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Cedarville’s Sophia Lopez reaches the national semifinals

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Lopez is among final 30 in National Spelling Bee semifinals on ESPN2

A famous adage says what we perceive as “luck” is usually just preparation meeting opportunity.

Cedarville Middle School student Sophia Lopez has been putting in the preparation work, studying spelling words for about 3 to 4 hours every day. The opportunity comes at 7 p.m. Sunday, when she and 29 other students participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee semifinals on ESPN2.

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The top 10 to 12 spellers in Sunday night’s online semifinals will advance to the in-person finals July 8 in Orlando, Fla.

Sophia, 13, said in the preliminary rounds, spellers were given a set list of words to study from, but this far into the competition, the source is the whole Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary. Language patterns and origins help the spellers on some words, but not all.

“Some words you have to memorize — the ones where there aren’t patterns for them. That’s one of the most difficult parts,” Sophia said. “A small factor of spelling bees is luck. You have to hope you’ve come across enough resources to learn those words, and hope you can remember them and get them right.”

This year’s national spelling bee started with 209 contestants, and Lopez aced three preliminary rounds and three quarterfinal rounds two weeks ago. Since then, there have been 10 days of down time.

“There’s been more time to prepare and to review a lot of stuff,” Sophia said. “But it’s also more time to get nervous.”

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Sophia, who just finished seventh grade, also advanced to the national spelling bee in 2019. She’s involved in theater, likes running and swimming, and she plays the violin.

The 30 semifinalists include 13 boys and 17 girls, ages 10 to 14, representing 18 states and the Bahamas. The other Ohioans are Isabella Fletcher, 12, of Steubenville, and Rajshekhar Basu Sarkar, 12, of Van Buren, near Findlay.

Since most rounds of the bee are online this year, Sophia said bee officials have been trying to keep the spellers connected this month via Zoom events, sharing posts about the competitors, and a webinar with the editor of the Merriam Webster dictionary, which she said was “pretty cool.”

“The spelling bee community is kind of small. Out of all the kids who participate, only a few get to nationals,” she said. “There are a lot of kids who keep connected because we all have spelling in common. There are group chats, and it’s really nice to connect with other people who share your same interests.”

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