Local speller misses finals at National Bee, but gained valuable experience

EDINBURG — After six months of learning and practicing five- to 10-letter words, Veena Namboodiri fell short of making the final cut for the Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 30 in Washington, D.C.

The 13-year-old was one of 515 contestants competing for the national title. She qualified in March after winning the Rio Grande Valley Regional Spelling Bee at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen.

She along with her parents and twin sister flew to D.C. May 27 for the event.

“When I first got there, I was more nerve-racked because I had to go through the preliminaries and the different rounds,” Namboodiri said. “After doing the preliminaries I felt kind of down because I thought I didn’t do as well on it.”

Namboodiri said she felt more comfortable reaching the stage portion of the spelling bee.

“I was determined to spell my words right,” she said. “Then most of the pressure went down because I knew how to do this and I felt more familiar after I done it once.”

She added that even though she didn’t make it to the finals, she was happy with how she had made it.

The event began on Monday with a Memorial Day barbecue, where the contestants had a chance to meet one another before the spelling bee preliminaries Tuesday and Wednesday.

The preliminary rounds consisted of vocabulary questions, but as Namboodiri wasn’t familiar with the format and didn’t know the point system calculations, she didn’t place high enough for the finals.

“Only the top 41 make it to finals out of the 515 and a lot of kids tied for 42nd,” she said. “I spelled my word right for round three, but after that they gathered everyone on stage and they called out 41 names out of 515 names to go to finals and if you weren’t called that’s the end for you.”

Her second round word was abseil and her third round word was empirical.

“I felt really nervous while on stage during round three because a lot of people were getting their words wrong because it was completely just random words,” Namboodiri said. ”I was shaking as they were getting closer and closer to me. Once I stood up … I got it right and I felt pretty good.”

The Edinburg student said loved the experience of being able to compete with the support of the Rio Grande Valley.

“Honestly, I did feel like this played a big role in my life because I can use the words that I found and learned for my future,” she said. “For example, I want to go into the medical field and like the roots (of the word) that I have learned can help decode a word to find its meaning.”

Thursday, the Bert Ogden Auto Group branch of Fiesta Nissan dealership in Edinburg held a special ceremony for Namboodiri and her family in honor of her making it to Washington. The small ceremony included local employees of the dealership and a surprise visit by CEO Bob Vacker, who gave her a congratulatory card with some spending money inside.