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This bee spells excitement

Last week, Rachel St. Cere of Pinellas Park Middle School won the Suncoast Spelling Bee and now prepares to head to Washington, D.C., May 26-30 for the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. Here's a look at how it feels to compete in a spelling bee from one of last year's contestants.

As I walked into the gym at Kennedy Middle School in Clearwater, I heard the announcement: The spelling bee was starting.

It had been a quick week. I had received my booklet of words on Monday, won my school's spelling bee on Wednesday, and now it was Saturday.

At the sound of the announcement, I straightened my knee-socks and found my seat amid the rows of labeled chairs.

The rounds went by until there were only three contestants left, two girls and a boy. After one more round, there were only the two girls.

The words flew at them until one of the girls misspelled one. The other girl spelled it correctly and was given one more word, which she spelled accurately, thus becoming the 1996 Pinellas County Spelling Bee champion.

I was the girl who won.

One month later my family and I stood in the lobby of the St. Petersburg Times building, waiting for the Suncoast Spelling Bee to begin. When I walked into the room where it was being held, I received a small pin and took my seat on the stage.

Again, the rounds went by quickly until there were only three of us left. This time I was out before the other remaining two. I went and sat with my family.

Now only a boy and a girl were left on stage. To me, it was extraordinary that the boy had gotten so far in the spelling bee. He was almost entirely deaf, and I hoped he would win the trip to compete in the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. When he was able to spell the last two words correctly, he became the conqueror.

Although he could not hear that much, I am sure he heard the tremendous round of applause. Although I finished third, I was nevertheless overjoyed.

Mary is a student at Tampa Preparatory School.