Joliet girl out of spelling bee
By Catherine Ann Velasco firstname.lastname@example.org June 1, 2011 8:12AM
Nina Montello, and her dad, Brian, during Round One Tuesday at Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. | Photo courtesy of National Scripps Spelling Bee
Updated: September 29, 2011 12:48AM
WASHINGTON — Joliet’s Nina Montello bounced away from the microphone Wednesday after spelling “nihilism” correctly.
It’s pretty ironic that out of the 275 words dished out in Round Three at the National Spelling Bee, that Nina — a Catholic student — would get that word.
Nina, a sixth-grader at Cathedral of St. Raymond’s School, nailed down “nihilism” in Round Three and “bromeliad” in Round Two during the 84th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee held Wednesday in Washington D.C.
Back at her school in Joliet, Nina’s fellow students were watching her live on the website.
“She spelled it really quickly,” said Principal Jennifer Groves. “She doesn’t hesitate at all. She just gets up there and spells with such confidence. It was impressive.”
Groves said the school sent out an update to all families.
“We shared the exciting news that she had spelled her second and third round words correctly and asked them to keep Nina and her family in their prayers as she continues on this exciting journey,” Groves said.
However, despite spelling both words right, Nina didn’t make it into Thursday’s semi-finals.
Out of the 275 spellers, 41 spellers made it to the semifinals for scoring at least 29 points out of 31 in Rounds 1-3, which included a written test of 25 words.
Nina’s dad, Brian Montello, said there was a little gasp in the crowd when the Spelling Bee official announced that there were only going to be 41 students moving onto the semi-finals. The rules allow for up to 50 spellers.
“This year, it seems like a tougher year,” he said. “They set a higher bar.”
He hopes Nina competes next year now that she knows what to expect.
Nina said she might try again.
“It was fun. The whole experience was really fun. It’s nerve-wracking when you are up on the stage, but it’s fun,” she said.
She’ll be in the audience Thursday watching the semi-finals, which will be shown at 9 a.m. on www.espn3.com and 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.
“I’ll be sad that I’m not (on stage), but it will be relieving. You don’t have to worry about anything like that,” Nina said.
The tough part was the written test of 25 words, she said.
“Basically, the first couple of words … were easy and words that you would know, and then they give you random words from the dictionary so you have to study the big dictionary and … hope that you know the words. I never heard of a lot of them.”
Nina thought it was neat that her friends at St. Raymond’s were cheering for her.
“I think that’s cool,” she said. “Thanks for all of the support and everything.”
This was Nina’s first time at the national bee. Nina, the daughter of Jennifer and Brian Montello, was one of 18 spellers from Illinois competing for the national title.
This was the third time Will County sent its very own winner to the national event. ComEd sponsored the trip. At the Will County Spelling Bee in February, Nina had to win to advance.
The event was sponsored by ComEd, Will County Regional Office of Education and Lewis University College of Education.
“We are so proud that she got this far. I know that she is a little bit disappointed, but she’s taking it pretty good,” Brian said. “I think she realizes how well she did and she got this far. … Seeing the level of competition here. These kids are amazing. She was in good company.”