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Albemarle County seventh-grader heads to Scripps National Spelling Bee

Spelling bees can be lengthy and repetitive, sometimes so much so that even the participants find them tiresome and annoying.

But that’s not the case for Albemarle County’s Claire Meng, the Lakeside Middle School seventh-grader who was one of two winners announced at the Scripps regional spelling bee March 30 with the winning word “ad nauseam.”

Meng isn’t just good at spelling, she has a passion for it, according to the Albemarle school division; she hopes to translate that passion into a profession one day and write a book.

Noah Kaplan, a seventh-grader hailing from Van Wyck Junior High School in Wappingers Falls, New York, was the other winner at the regional bee, winning with the word “gaia.”

The two spellers have secured their tickets to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, a three-day televised event held in National Harbor, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C.

That bee’s preliminary stage will begin on May 28 with the final competition taking place on May 30. Last year’s national spelling champion was Dev Shah of Largo, Florida, who won with the word “psammophile” after 15 rounds.

For Meng, the national bee will be her first time spelling in person for a Scripps spelling bee. The previous rounds, including last week’s regional spelling bee, have all been held on Zoom.

For the first time, Scripps National Spelling Bee has taken over as the full-time sponsor of the local school bees, moving them to the online platform. Previously, The Daily Progress sponsored the local bee in Central Virginia.

Meng isn’t entirely new to in-person bees. This past January, Albemarle hosted a divisionwide tournament for middle and elementary schools in order to maintain the tradition of an in-person bee and give spellers a chance to practice in front of an audience, according to Monica Cabarcas, the lead coach for secondary English language arts for the county school division.

Though all of the division’s 21 spellers advanced to the online Scripps regional test, Meng once again claimed victory in the division bee by correctly spelling “extemporaneous.”

The online format has presented some challenges for the tournament organizers as Scripps had to postpone the regional spelling bee due to technical problems. The competition was originally meant to take place on March 9.


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