Spelling bee becomes family affair
March 23, 2010 at 10:01 p.m.
Updated March 23, 2010 at 10:24 p.m.
Margaret Ann Harper said she hoped to take a top-place trophy as a souvenir from Tuesday night's 21st Annual Regional County Spelling Bee.
Irony was not on her side.
Harper, a 14-year-old eighth-grader who goes by Megan, walked to the stage at the Victoria College Johnson Symposium Center. Davis Smolik, her Sacred Heart principal, lifted a small black bag with a rosary inside. Harper touched it for luck just before taking her seat.
In the audience, Harper's supporters and family positioned notebooks and spoke quiet well-wishes.
Tommy and Angela Harper watched their daughter survive the first round. To cope with the nerves - to telepathically prompt their daughter along - they simultaneously spelled in the notebooks words spoken on stage.
"We practiced words on the way here," said Jacob Morisak, a Harper family friend who also once attended Sacred Heart. Morisak won the 1984 spelling bee, he said.
On stage, Harper walked to the microphone.
"Souvenir," she heard.
With thoughts of a top-place trophy on her mind, Harper misspelled the word during the bee's second round.
"Thank you," she said into the microphone. She then left the stage with a smile.
"I'm a pretty good speller, but I missed the word she missed, too," Harper's father said.
"I guess we didn't take her to enough souvenir shops," her mother joked.
Harper joined her parents for the remainder of the contest. Together, they spelled the contest words on the notebooks.
Pauline Negrete, an Edna Elementary School fifth grader, eventually won the bee, which ended after 9 p.m.
Harper, though, remained enthused even at the late hour.
"I didn't have expectations to be first, but it was kind of a shock to be knocked out so soon," she said.
"If it was a team effort," her mother said, smiling and pointing to the family notebook, "We wouldn't have done so bad."