• Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on May 28, 2009
AURORA – St. Rita of Cascia Catholic Church associate pastor Lou Busemeyer gave 12-year-old Brittany Hamling a blessing before she left for Washington, D.C., to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
He probably should have given her book of Catholic terminology, as well.
Hamling, of Aurora, a sixth-grade student at St. Rita of Cascia School in Aurora, did well in the first two days of competition, but she didn’t score high enough in the three preliminary rounds to earn a berth as a semifinalist. Written test scores from Tuesday were combined with the oral rounds Wednesday to determine the semifinalists.
On Wednesday, she spelled “incessant” correctly in the second preliminary round. But she was tripped up in the third preliminary round by ceremoniarius – an official at solemn services of the Roman Catholic Church charged with the duty of seeing that all the rites are correctly executed.
“I’m a Catholic-school principal and I’m not familiar with that word,” said Elizabeth Faxon, Hamling’s principal at St. Rita of Cascia. “It’s not one of the words we use, certainly not at the elementary level.”
Hamling, to her credit, said she had heard of the word.
“But I totally blanked out about the ending,” she added.
The important part to Hamling — whose trip to Washington, D.C., was sponsored by The Chronicle — was that she had a great experience.
“Once I got to the microphone, it felt really cool,” said Hamling, whose Day 2 performance on stage was shown on espn360.com. “I liked being up there.”
And Hamling certainly wasn’t alone in not making it past the second day.
Of the record 293 participants at the spelling bee, just 41 moved on to the nationally televised semifinals that start Thursday morning. A dozen or so spellers will complete in the finals in prime time Thursday night for a trophy that comes with more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.
Hamling will be in the audience for the events.
“I think it will be cool to watch the other people up there,” Hamling said. “Usually I’m up there spelling.”
It took a lot of hard work for Hamling to get to this point, and she plans to enjoy every bit of her time in Washington D.C. Hamling is ready for a break from words, though.
“I’m just happy I don’t have to study anymore,” she said.
At least until next year.
“I definitely want to try again,” Hamling said. “This has been a really great experience.”
And although the Rev. Lou Busemeyer’s blessing might not have led to a trip to the semifinals for Hamling, in her principal’s mind, the blessing worked just right.
“She’s there and she’s safe and she’s happy,” Faxon said. “In our hearts, she’s a champion just for going out to Washington, D.C., and being one of 293. That’s incredible.