Our View: A crushing defeat

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Demarcate. Noun: to determine or mark off the boundaries or limits of. Trust me, I know how to define that word, use it in a sentence and, most importantly, I darn-well know how to spell it.

But I didn’t in 1998. As I stood on stage with nearly 70 other young spellers in the Treasure State Spelling Bee, I was full of confidence as the prompter gave me the word.

“D-e-m-a-r,” I spelled ... and then hit the wall. “C.” It must be “c.” And then I second-guessed myself. “K-a-t-e,” I finished hastily. But I could see it in the judges’ eyes: I was done for. And the ultimate humiliation? I was the first one out.

I was crushed. The bee had meant a trip out of town, no small expense for my poor family, and even included breakfast at a restaurant.

Where had I gone wrong? It took me a long time to admit, after hours of sobbing, eighth-grade angst at its finest, that the reason I was going home was that I hadn’t studied as hard as the other kids. I had barely cracked open a dictionary, trusting in the spelling rules to prevail, and not accounting for curveballs and words I had never heard before.

Well, the Rocklin spellers heading to the county and California Central Valley bees this month have worked much harder than I did, and you can find out just how hard in Teresa O’Hanlon’s story on Page A3.

I wish them all the best of luck, and hope they know that no matter the outcome, they should be immensely proud of the effort they’ve put into getting to where they are.