WASHINGTON -- Elizabeth Koh is getting ready for the biggest spelling test of her life.
A seventh-grader at St. Francis de Sales School in Beckley, Elizabeth is representing the Gazette-Mail in the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee, held this year in National Harbor, Md., just outside Washington.
Elizabeth, her mother Rosemary and brother Matthew arrived in the nation's capital Sunday evening.
"We just kind of relaxed and settled in," Elizabeth said.
Elizabeth has used some of her downtime to prepare for the bee and relax. Organizers hosted a Memorial Day barbecue for spellers and their families. Elizabeth said the cookout allowed her to meet other contestants and bee officials.
Bee Week began in earnest Tuesday with the bee's first round of competition, a written test worth 25 points. Spellers crowded into a room and listened as bee pronouncer Jacques Bailly read off a list of words. After each word, contestants scribbled down their guess at the word's correct spelling.
"Like a spelling test," Elizabeth explained.
Though all 274 spellers were crowded into one room for the test, Elizabeth said she didn't use the opportunity to size up the competition.
"We were all being friendly," she said.
Contestants weren't allowed to discuss specifics of the Round 1 test until scores were released Tuesday evening. Elizabeth said she doesn't know how well she fared on the test.
"I did my best. I'm not sure what the results are going to be," she said.
She'll get her turn on the national bee stage Wednesday morning.
Contestants will spell one word each in Rounds 2 and 3, the first oral rounds. Spellers receive three points for each correct spelling but won't be eliminated if they spell the words incorrectly. Points from these rounds will be added to spellers' Round 1 score.
Bee organizers will decide on a "cut score" after they tally spellers' overall scores. The cut score will determine how many spellers advance to the semifinal rounds, usually around 50 contestants.
Round 2 begins at 8 a.m. and will be televised live on ESPN3. Elizabeth is speller No. 268, so she won't get her turn at the microphone until after 10 a.m.
Round 3 starts after lunch and also will be shown on ESPN3, with Elizabeth taking the stage sometime after 3 p.m.
The bee's semifinal rounds will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday and will be shown on ESPN.
The championship finals also will be shown on ESPN starting at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.
Elizabeth said she's excited for the competition's oral rounds.
"I want to know how it feels to be on the national bee stage and spelling your word," she said.
Elizabeth placed first in the 2011 Gazette-Mail Regional Spelling Bee in March. Her prizes included an all-expenses-paid, weeklong trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She also won a $2,500 SMART529 savings account for college.
The March 12 regional bee was co-sponsored by the West Virginia Housing Development Fund and West Virginia American Water. It was televised on WSAZ-TV's myZtv.
Four other West Virginia students are competing in the Scripps National Bee this year.
Savannah Aldridge, 13, of Bridgeport, is a home-schooled eighth-grader sponsored by The Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram. Yagna Deep Vudathu, 13, of Martinsburg, is a seventh-grader at South Middle School sponsored by The (Martinsburg) Journal.
The Dominion Post sponsored Ksheeraja Sriram, 12, of Morgantown, a seventh-grader at Suncrest Middle School. Connor Moore, 11, of Wheeling, is a fifth-grader at Woodsdale Elementary School. He is sponsored by The Catholic Spirit, a newspaper published by the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese.
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