Tulare sixth-grader knocked out of National Spelling Bee after third round

Bee Washington BureauMay 28, 2014 

— "Facetious ... Intarsia."

Those were the words Eileen Xue nailed during the second and third preliminary rounds Wednesday at the 87th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Still, the 12-year-old from Tulare didn't advance to Thursday's semifinals. A preliminary computer-based test of spelling and vocabulary helped cull that field from the original 281 to 46.

Eileen's mother, Jenny He, said just getting the chance to compete was enough for her daughter.

"I think this will be one of the best moments in our life, so we're going to remember" it, He said.

Eileen used her left hand as an invisible tablet to write as her pronouncer threw the challenging words at her Wednesday.

"It helps me visualize it, so sometimes if I'm not sure ... that helps me check if what I'm thinking is right," Eileen said.

Spellers ages 8 through 15 competed at the National Spelling Bee held in Prince George's County in suburban Maryland, just south of Washington, D.C.

Along with contestants from the 50 states (16 from California), there were youth from the U.S. territories, District of Columbia, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.

"I think all the parents should encourage their kids to do it," Eileen's mother said. "This is a great opportunity to attend this kind of event and to meet all the smart kids from all over the country and from other parts of the world."

Eileen, a sixth-grader at Mission Valley Elementary School, spent three to four hours on weekends and one to two hours on weekdays studying for the spelling bee. She competed in Tulare County's spelling bee for the past two years and made it to the nationals in 2014 for the first time.

Eileen was one of the contestants who spelled correctly up until the third round, though scores from the computerized test administered prior to the preliminaries -- announced Wednesday evening -- eliminated her and 174 other students from the competition.

Although she did not advance to the semifinals, Eileen said it was a great experience to participate on stage in front of a big crowd.

What's next?

Eileen said she plans to learn the piano and aspires to become a dentist when she grows up.

The reporter is an intern in The Bee's Washington Bureau. To comment on this story, email metro@fresnobee.com.

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