The first word Jeffrey Hsia was challenged to spell at Saturday’s 2022 Maryland Eastern Shore Regional Spelling Bee was “lucky.”
It proved a harbinger of good things to come.
Jeffrey, an eighth-grader at Bennett Middle School in Salisbury, won the competition and earned an automatic invitation to participate in the Scripps National Spelling Bee this May and June.
He won the event spelling “likelihood” correctly. All told, he nailed 13 words on his way to winning the keepsake medallion awarded to the winner.
“I was very happy, and so proud,” Jeffrey said.
Ariana Miah of Pemberton Elementary School, also in Salisbury, was the runner-up.
It was the second time Jeffrey qualified for the competition sponsored by the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. In 2019, he represented Fruitland Intermediate School.
Bennett Middle, Jeffrey said, held its school-level bee a week prior to the event at UMES, so he estimated he had five days to study the word guide each regional bee qualifier receives.
At home, Jeffrey and his family also speak Mandarin. His father, Victor, said as a young child spelling was a challenge for Jeffrey.
“We are very proud of him,” his father said. “He works very hard.”
Jeffrey said he was motivated “to learn to spell new words correctly so I can do a good job on writing (school) papers.”
“I’m meticulous about using correct words,” he said.
At Bennett Middle, Jeffrey performs with the school band and orchestra; he plays violin, “some trombone” and base.
Spelling bees are a solo act, however, and Jeffrey acknowledged having sweaty palms as the bee got under way. He said he calmed himself by focusing on spelling the words his fellow competitors were presented.
Eventually, only Jeffrey and Ariana were left sitting on the stage of the Ella Fitzgerald Center for the Performing Arts.
They went back and forth for six rounds before Ariana misspelled “pattypan,” and Jeffrey was poised to win the event.
When word pronouncer Marilyn Buerkle said “likelihood,” Jeffrey confided he was confident he knew how to spell it and drew on his routine of not blurting out a response. He calmly executed the spelling to perfection and staked claim to being the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland’s best speller in 2022.