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Spelling bee contestant makes most of trip to D.C.

By KBell
June 1, 2011 at 1:01 a.m.
Updated June 2, 2011 at 1:02 a.m.

Andrew Bernhard, 13, competes in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. The Our Lady of Victory student didn't make it to the semi-final round, but said he made good friends with the other 274 competitors from all over the world.

There's more to the Scripps National Spelling Bee than just spelling.

Andrew Bernhard could hardly even recall the two words he had to spell in front of hundreds of people in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. But the 13-year-old could rattle off where some of his 274 competitors were from: Jamaica, Ghana, Korea and Canada.

"It was pretty cool," Andrew said of the strangers turned opponents turned friends. "You get to learn about how they live in their countries and the difference between here and their country."

Andrew, a 7th-grader at Our Lady of Victory, won Victoria's regional spelling bee to qualify for the national competition in a week-long trip sponsored by the Advocate.

After one written exam and two rounds of spelling on-the-spot, Andrew did not make it to the semi-final rounds. He was disappointed because he said he knew the words: "minatory" and "exuviate."

"I was really nervous," he said of the huge stage and thick crowd. "I even knew how to spell it, I just got too nervous and spelled the wrong letter."

But Andrew will still attend the semi-final and final rounds because, of course, his friends will be competing.

His dad, Randall Bernhard, said the friendships the kids have developed are an aspect of the spelling bee he wasn't expecting.

"What's surprising more than anything is the atmosphere of the bee," he said. "Everyone here is rooting for every child to just be successful ... It gives you hope to see children like this."

Andrew has been playing in the hotel pool with friends, attending a barbecue for participants and visiting sites like Arlington National Cemetery. Still on the father-son to-do list is a trip to the National Science Museum - a must-see for Andrew, who loves learning about science.

In fact, everything Andrew had to say about his trip to the nation's capital centered around what he was learning.

"It's just fun, I guess," Andrew said about gaining knowledge in general.

From exploring museums, to learning about the history behind monuments, to learning the different backgrounds of his competitors, the spelling bee trip is a playground for the curious student. Andrew said he hopes to qualify for next year's national spelling bee, when the stage will hopefully not be so menacing.

Whether they come back next year or not, Andrew's dad said just seeing his son on stage was success enough.

"I'm just as proud as I could be of him," he said. "It's just to see him succeed ... it doesn't get any better than that."



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