Brent Henderson’s goal was to spell at least one word right during the semifinals of the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

And although the eighth grader from Moreland Ridge Middle School in Blue Springs did not move onto the finals, he did get his wish.

Brent Henderson’s goal was to spell at least one word right during the semifinals of the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
And although the eighth grader from Moreland Ridge Middle School in Blue Springs did not move onto the finals, he did get his wish.
“I am so excited,” he said by telephone Thursday afternoon. “My goal was to spell one word right, and I did. I am very happy.”
The semifinals began with 41 spellers out of the original 293. Brent, 14, spelled “Uruguayan” correctly in the fourth round, a word, he said, he was a little nervous about.
“I was just thinking of all the possibilities before I started spelling,” he said. “I was so excited when I spelled it right. Words cannot describe how I was feeling.”
But when the fifth round started, with 36 spellers remaining, Brent discovered the level of difficulty shifted, knocking spellers out quickly. He incorrectly spelled “cicatrize” (to heal with the formation of a scar), ending his National Spelling Bee experience. He spelled the word “siccatrize.”
“I had never heard it before,” he said of the word. “It was tricky because there are other words that sound like it. I got a couple of them mixed up, and it didn’t come out right.”
Nineteen others were also knocked out in the fifth round, leaving 16 to move on to Round 6. Only 11 moved from Round 6 on to the finals.
Last year, Brent did not advance past the preliminaries because the combined scores of the written test and oral rounds were not high enough.
Don Henderson, Brent’s father, said the level of competition was amazing.
“I think we got more nervous than he (Brent) did,” he said. “But there were so many hard words that next round. It was just an incredible experience, and we are so happy he got this far.”
Brent, who will return to Blue Springs Saturday, will spend Friday sight-seeing before attending the farewell party in the evening. He said he has had a “tremendous experience” and is happy he was able to compete one last time. The National Spelling Bee is only for students in eighth grade or below.
“I am a little disappointed that this is my last year because I think I could do really well next year,” he said. “It has been incredible here. I have gotten to meet so many different spellers that it has been a wonderful experience. It is a relief, though, that I do not have to study anymore.”
Don Henderson said the trip to the National Spelling Bee has served as a reward for the whole family.
“This has really been a reward for all of us because, as a family, we have helped him prepare for this. Brent has worked so hard,” he said. “We have enjoyed our time here and are happy that we got to be a part of it. This has been an incredible experience.”
All expenses for the family’s trip were paid by The Examiner, official sponsor of the Jackson County Spelling Bee.

Olathe girl wins title

Cool and collected, Kavya Shivashankar wrote out every word on her palm and always ended with a smile. The 13-year-old Kansas girl saved the biggest smile for last, when she rattled off the letters to “Laodicean” to become the nation’s spelling champion.
The budding neurosurgeon from Olathe, Kan., outlasted 11 finalists Thursday night to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, taking home more than $40,000 in cash and prizes and, of course, the huge champion’s trophy.
After spelling the winning word, which means lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics, Kavya got huge hugs from her father, mother and little sister.
Kavya was making her fourth appearance at the bee, having finishing 10th, eighth and fourth over the last three years. She enjoys playing the violin, bicycling, swimming and learning Indian classical dance, and her role model is Nupur Lala, the 1999 champion featured in the documentary “Spellbound.”
Second place went to 12-year-old Tim Ruiter of Centreville, Va., the only non-teenager in the finals. He misspelled “maecenas,” which means a cultural benefactor.
Aishwarya Pastapur, 13, from Springfield, Ill., who loved to pump her arm and exclaim “Yes!” after getting a word correct, finished third after flubbing “menhir”, a type of monolith.
The 82nd annual bee attracted a record 293 participants, with the champion determined on network television in prime time for the fourth consecutive year. There was even a new humorous twist: Organizers turned the sentences read by pronouncer Jacques Bailly into jokes.
This year’s finalists were all 13 years old, except for 12-year-old Tim. Otherwise, they were a diverse group, with hometowns from New York to California. One was born in Malaysia. Another can speak Hindi and wore five good-luck charms. Tim is a science fiction buff who apparently does a great impersonation of Gollum from “Lord of the Rings.”
Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, kicked off the championship rounds by telling of a bout with nerves that caused her to drop out of a sixth-grade spelling contest.
“I know that confidence is the most important thing you can give a child,” she told the audience.