In New Orleans, A Spelling Bee Champ Preps for Nationals

by Chris Meehan

Jessica Davis

Jessica Davis, the 13-year-old daughter of Basil and Shyla Davis (New Orleans), out spelled nearly 200 other students to win the New Orleans regional spelling bee in March. Her victory secured her a spot in the highly competitive Scripps National Spelling Bee, to be held in Washington, DC, in late May. Jessica will have to pass a written spelling test and two oral exams to qualify for the final event, the famous spelling bee televised nationally on ESPN.

“I really didn't think I could win,” Jessica said, “especially when I heard that last year's winner was allowed to try again.”

In addition to overcoming the defending champ, Jessica beat out competitors from 40 schools in a large region comprised of seven parishes and including the city of New Orleans. One competitor was her own 11-year-old brother, Peter, a sixth-grader, who also made it to the top five before getting knocked out in round 12 after misspelling the word “homburg” (a stiff, German-style felt hat).

Those final four spellers hung on doggedly for 22 more rounds, so long that the judges ran out of words on the list of 500 they had given the participants as a study guide. At some point Jessica realized she was in uncharted waters, needing to spell words she had not practiced.

In round 34, all four correctly navigated through words like “hoomalimali” (a Hawaiian word for something whose purpose is to attract positive attention) “sarsaparilla,” “perestroika,” “apparatchik” and “beetewk” (a Russian breed of work horses).  Finally, the other three stumbled on “cinephile,” “phosphorus” and  “symmetrical,” respectively. To secure the win, Jessica spelled two words in a row correctly: “morose” and then “forage.”

A seventh-grader at St. Benilde School in Metairie, Jessica follows in the footsteps of her older sister Melinda, who won the same contest two years ago and went to DC. She and Shyla had brought Jessica along for the week of activities, including tours of the national monuments. “I think that experience made a big impression on her,” says Shyla.

“This past fall my mother told me to give spelling bees a try,” Jessica says. “I did, and discovered how fun it is.”

Jessica attributes some of her success to her love of reading. “It’s easier to remember a word if you’ve read it.” She reads all sorts of books; The Lord of the Rings is her favorite series. Another factor in the win: “I studied the guide list, and my brother and I quizzed each other.”

Basil will be the only family member available to accompany Jessica to Washington for the national bee. “We didn’t put much thought into the possibility she might win, so we went ahead and purchased tickets to go back home to India for a family gathering,” Basil said. “Shyla will go to India as planned, with Melinda and Peter. Jessica and I will join them later.”

Responses

  1. Mike Zengel says:

    Jessica:

    What fantastic news! I hope you do well in the National competion in Washingto D.C.

    God bless you,
    Mike Zengel

  2. Stephen Busk says:

    Awesome job Jessica, Peter, Basil & Shyla. We always watch the spelling bee finals. Hope to see you on it. Peace.

  3. chris urbanski says:

    Well done Jessica!
    Chris Urbanski

  4. Terri Porter says:

    Wow! Great job!

  5. Mae says:

    Congratulations, Jessica, and good luck at Nationals!

  6. Julie Walters says:

    Congratulations in your wins so far. We'll be waiting to hear about your Washington experience.
    Praying for you,
    Julie and Clem Walters

  7. Dan Robinson says:

    Way to go, Jessica!
    Have fun at the nationals.

  8. Linda coney says:

    We're so proud of you, Jessica!

  9. Frances Gauthier says:

    Way to go, Jessica! We are all very proud of you and will be praying for your continued success. That takes a lot of courage.

  10. Marge Connolly says:

    Jessica, I bet you are not feeling at all morose now! And I'm guessing you and your dad will have fun foraging in all the great bookstores in D.C. during your visit. Congratulations.

  11. Malia Busekrus says:

    I am so proud of you that I have tears in my eyes! I am a teacher and I would've misspelled some of those word! We're praying for you!

  12. Chris Rousselle says:

    Way to go Jessica! Let's do it in DC.

  13. Joan Hiel says:

    Congrats from Hawaii. Maybe you should be ready to spell Humuhumunukunukuapua'a
    Our state fish. Best wishes for you in nationals.
    Joan Hiel.
    I believe we met at Buffalo camp last summer. Our gang will be routing for you

  14. Joan Hiel says:

    Proud of you congrats from the Hawaii branch Bufalo camp gang

  15. Linda Simpkins says:

    How awesome! and how fun! a great achievement. Have a wonderful time touring and competing in D.C.

  16. Marcie Rosencrantz says:

    You did a wonderful job, I could never have done that, spelling is not one of my gifts. You are blessed. I'm happy for you.

  17. theresa shriver says:

    Congratulations Jessica! That is wonderful. We will miss you at Buffalo camp this year.

  18. Laurie Magill says:

    Congratulations dear Jessica! Mr. Magill and I are so, so
    proud of your accomplishment as your godparents. You give
    great glory to God! Hope to see you when you come to D.C.!

  19. Alan Nicklaus says:

    tickety-boo.
    God bless you.
    May your gift glorify the Creator (of all words).

  20. Nancy Grams says:

    Congratulations, Jessica! We will be praying for your competition in Washington, D.C.

  21. Karen Heintzelman says:

    Jessica, you are fantastic!!

  22. Tracy Scriba says:

    What an accomplishment! Wishing you many blessings in the upcoming competition, Jessica.

  23. Cynthia Hagens says:

    WOW!!! Congratulations! Will be praying for your continue success!

  24. Kim Doffing says:

    What a great accomplishment! I give glory to God for YOU, Jessica!

  25. Peggy Go says:

    Wow! That is wonderful!

  26. MARY DUDDY says:

    Jessica,
    Congratulations! My oldest daughter made it to the state competiton in Hawaii several years ago. It's a lot of practise to get those 500 words down. Have fun in D.C....and Happy Easter!

  27. Paul Putzier says:

    Amazing and wonderful. I can barely spell my own name! I pray you find success in May. Let us all know how you do.

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