Education

Bedford teen advances to semifinals in national spelling bee Wednesday

Michelle Yakubek, an eighth-grader at Harmony Science Academy in Euless, correctly spells "nirvana" in preliminary round two of the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md.
Michelle Yakubek, an eighth-grader at Harmony Science Academy in Euless, correctly spells "nirvana" in preliminary round two of the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md. McClatchy

Michelle Yakubek of Bedford goes on to the semifinals after correctly spelling nirvana and Olmec on Wednesday at the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

The student at Harmony Science Academy in Euless was calm after her name was called for the semifinals, perhaps a little nervous because she still had a written semifinals test ahead of her Wednesday evening.

To advance this far, she had to pass a written test Tuesday and spell correctly in both preliminary rounds Wednesday.

Michelle, who is sponsored by Texas Christian University and the Star-Telegram, said she studied three hours a day to prepare for the national competition.

“I take getting into the final to be a huge goal for me, and I’ll be ecstatic if I get that far. But first, getting to semifinals.” Yakubek had said after round two.

The eighth-grader spelled noblesse correctly in March to become the first girl to win the regional bee since 2009.

Yakubek prepared with help from her mother, Jing Yakubek of China, who didn’t want to take much credit. She just said it was her daughter’s effort that paid off.

The family arrived in Washington, D.C., on Saturday and visited the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

“I love doing flight simulators, especially turning upside down. It’s wonderful.” Yakubek said. The 14-year-old also enjoys 3-D design, math and science competitions and archery.

But spelling and reading are also among her favorites. When she spelled tryptophan correctly on an elementary school spelling test, Yakubek realized that she might be good at spelling. She loves it.

Two hundred and eighty five students from across the country competed in Wednesday’s preliminaries. Competitors can ask for the language origin, definition, alternate pronunciations, repetition and usage of a word. Spellers are immediately out once they spell a word incorrectly.

“The competition really helps in dealing with stress and hard questions,” said Yakubek.

Last year, Ansun Sujoe of Fort Worth was co-champion of the national bee, the highest place a Fort Worth-area competitor had taken in more than 40 years.

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