TRAVERSE CITY — Charlie Donahue had the jitters, but those watching the Scripps National Spelling Bee and live- streaming of the competition on ESPN couldn’t tell by the way he spelled with ease.
“I was nervous, I just didn’t look like it,” he said from Washington, D.C.
The St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Middle School eighth-grader and winner of the Grand Traverse Regional Spelling Bee aimed to survive to the semifinals Thursday. He wasn’t among the 41 spellers who advanced, but Charlie, 14, thought he did “pretty well” overall.
“I’m just proud to be here in the national bee,” Charlie said.
Spellers’ on-stage scores were combined with a computerized test administered Tuesday to determine the semifinalists. The test tackled spelling and vocabulary. Advice from the movie “Akeelah and the Bee” proved handy for Charlie.
“The first advice Akeelah gets is to memorize all the past winning words. A little booklet I received had all the winning words from the past. Monday I looked those words over and on Tuesday one of them was on the written test,” he said.
Charlie’s correctly spelled “foggara” and “acedia” in rounds two and three. He said the crowd didn’t make him nervous, but wondering whether he’d know how to spell the words did.
As the 128th to take the stage, Charlie occupied his time by listening to the other spellers’ words.
“I knew almost all of them. There were one or two I didn’t know,” he said. “I had to wait for 127 other people to spell. I was just thinking over and over am I going to know this word?”