NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. - After an impressive run at the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee, Grace Remmer was foiled by a fruit stalk.
The home-schooled eighth-grader from St. Augustine, in the finals for the first time in her four years competing at the national bee, was rolling along - until "melocoton" got in her way.
She misspelled the word, which refers to a peach grafted onto a quince root stalk, as "melecaton."
Grace lived up to her name after her stumble, gracefully turning to face the crowd of hundreds who gave her a standing ovation.
"Thank you everybody," she told them as she walked off stage at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center.
She tied for seventh place at the bee, which means she'll receive $1,500.
Grace had been one of 11 finalists in a competition that several months ago featured 11 million contestants competing in regional bees around the country. The finals aired Thursday night on ESPN.
"I can't believe I'm in the finals," she said after the 11 were named but before the final rounds began. "This was my major goal."
After reaching Thursday afternoon's semifinals, Grace correctly spelled "requiescence," which means a place or state of rest, then "teneramente," a musical direction to play tenderly.
On the first round of the nationally televised finals (Round 7 overall), Grace kept the momentum going by correctly spelling "greffier," which means a keeper of records. In Round 8, she conquered "lefse" a Scandinavian pastry made from potatoes.
Round 9 found her once again in charge as she deftly spelled "emmeleia," a solemn and stately dance used in Greek tragedy.
Three of the finalists were from Florida. The national bee started Tuesday with 281 spellers - 147 girls and 134 boys - from the U.S. and several foreign countries.
The youngest speller was 8-year-old Tara Singh of Louisville, Ky. Nearly 90 percent of the children were ages 12 to 14. Spellers cannot compete beyond the eighth grade.
Grace was one of three spellers in the competition who scored a perfect 30 in a preliminary written test that included both spelling and vocabulary questions. Last year, she tied for 22nd.
She said the difference this year was "experience:" knowing how best to study and not being intimidated by the national stage. It showed in the way she confidently aced her words.
Still, Grace said, it's not as easy as it might look.
"Even though I've been here, I'm still afraid of what might come next," she said earlier in the competition.
This year's champion will receive a $30,000 cash prize, the Scripps National Spelling Bee engraved trophy, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond, a complete reference library from Merriam-Webster, and $2,000 worth of reference works from Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Past winners have sometimes been invited to the White House to meet the president and have appeared on late-night talk shows. The 2012 champion was Snigdha Nandipati of San Diego, Calif.
The 281 spellers who came for this year's competition came from all 50 states and the District of Columbia as well as Japan, South Korea, China, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Ghana, Canada, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and U.S. Department of
Defense Dependents Schools in Europe.
The 147 girls and 134 boys who began this year's competition range in age from eight to 14.
More than 63 percent of the spellers came from public schools. Another 19 percent came from private schools and nearly 9 percent are home-schooled. Math, not English, was most frequently cited as spellers' favorite subject.
More than 60 of the spellers including Grace had competed in the national bee before.
For more information on the bee, go to www.spellingbee.com
Words Grace Remmer spelled on stage:
- "melecaton" (correct spelling is "melocoton")
Ledyard King, Gannett Washington Bureau