WASHINGTON -- Agitated nerves and an unfamiliar word combined to eliminate 12-year-old Jessica Corbin from her second straight year of competition at the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee on Wednesday.
Jessica, a home schooler from Martinez, said she specializes in studying the Greek and Latin roots of words. But she was stumped in the second round by "clientele" -- a word that is French in origin.
"It may have been an easy word for someone else, but I'd never heard it before," Jessica said. "When the second round started, I noticed the words were getting a lot harder, and I was just hoping I'd get one of the easier words. But I didn't."
In the first round, she correctly spelled "arcanum," a word that was familiar to her because of its Latin root.
This was Jessica's second year representing The Augusta Chronicle at the nation's largest and oldest educational competition. Sponsored by Scripps Howard News Service and 239 local newspapers, the national competition quizzes 250 students, ages 9-15, on their ability to spell such words as "intermezzo" and "cryptanalysis."
After being eliminated, Jessica wiped away tears. She said she couldn't help but be disappointed, although she was thankful for the experience.
"At first, I thought I'd made a stupid mistake," she said. "But then, I realized how easy it is to do that. I just thank God for letting me get this far."
Jessica, who says a prayer before competition and before every spelling word, credits her faith for getting her through tough competition because she gets nervous in front of crowds. Her parents said they are proud of their daughter for her accomplishments.
"She knows I won't love her any less or any more if she wins or loses," said her father, the Rev. Robert Corbin. "When we came here last year, we saw kids who studied 10 hours a day, and we knew we weren't willing to put her through that."
Although she won't get a chance to compete in today'sfinal rounds for the top prize of $10,000 and two U.S. Airways round trip tickets, Jessica will not walk away empty-handed. She won $75 dollars and a commemorative watch for making it to the second round of competition.
For her part, the young spelling whiz says she is still optimistic, and encourages other children to compete in spelling bees at their own schools.
"I'll probably try again next year," she said.
Some of the words contestants missed in the National Spelling Bee:
Entente, edaphon, desiccant, botuliform, armageddon, xenogamy, glaucous, quietus, ocarina, sudoriferous, mynheer, nidorous, nadir, lachrymose, graveolent, roseola, lugubrious, billeted, naris, saponaceous, splenomegaly, ravigote, pileum and phytophilous.