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Zhu falls in fourth at national bee

By Staff
Pitt County speller looks to next year
By GREG KATSKI
Staff Writer
Mayee Zhu took a “mellifluous” approach in her spelling of that word during the third round of the 2008 Scripps National Spelling Bee. If only her delivery of the word “polonaise” had been just as smoothly flowing.
Zhu tripped up on “polonaise” — her fourth round word — defined as “a stately Polish dance fashionable in 19th century Europe,” in the middle of the dance.
Zhu missed advancing to the semifinals by one letter, but knows how to deal with defeat. Zhu, who is going into eighth grade at Hope Middle School in Greenville, first made it to the national spelling bee as a 5th grader. Zhu thinks she was better prepared this time around.
But with the stakes higher, she was also more nervous.
Zhu received an all-expense paid trip to the national competition for winning the Downeast Spelling Bee, sponsored by the Washington Daily News.
Zhu arrived in Washington, D.C., for the national spelling bee on Memorial Day and immediately prepared herself for the first round of competition. Round 1 was a written test and could be taken on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. In her first trip to the national bee, Zhu, then a 5th grader at South Greenville Elementary School, failed the written test and was not permitted to go past the first round of oral competition.
Better prepared, Zhu spelled 22 out of the 25 words featured on the preliminary test correctly.
Having successfully exorcised her demons, she moved on to Round 2, where she was asked to spell the word “neoprene.”
Nevertheless, she persevered and resisted folding under pressure to the word, which means an oil-resistant synthetic rubber.
Zhu advanced to the quarterfinals, held the evening of May 29, where she would eventually fail trying to spell “polonaise.”
She finished tied for 46th place, and was one of 63 spellers out of 288 to make it to Round 4.
Her marked improvement campared to her first trip to the bee can be attributed to hard work. After making the national competition in 5th grade, Zhu became disillusioned by the competition in 6th grade and failed to win the Hope Middle School Spelling Bee.
After failing to qualify for the Downeast competition, Zhu hit the books and words.
Zhu received some help from her father, Yong, and her sister but mostly helped herself.
The Hope Middle spelling competition almost didn’t even happen this year after the school replaced it’s talented-and-gifted teacher. Zhu’s father had to lobby Anne Roth, the new sponsor of the spelling bee, to make it happen and pave the way for her to reach nationals.
Zhu has one more year of eligibility in the national competition and is already preparing for next year’s nationals.
Zhu still receives help from her sister, who used to compete locally.
Jennifer attributes her sister’s success to hard work and preserverance.