It was one word in thousands.
"Collards" was that one seemingly simple word that tripped up Ben Crowder, the Utah representative, in the second round of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.For more than two months Crowder studied for six to eight hours a day learning thousands of words from the dictionary and stacks of past spelling lists in preparation for the national spelling contest. As it turned out, it was that unlikely leafy green vegetable that ousted the Deseret News Utah Spelling Bee champion.
Under the glare of bright lights and camera lenses, the home schooler from Utah County was cool and confident. While other champion spellers nervously fidgeted, Crowder spelled a multi-syllabic tongue twister without one bead of sweat dripping from his forehead or an uneasy twitch of the eyebrow.
The word in the first round was "jurimetrician," and the accomplished speller spoke the thirteen-letter-word without hesitation.
The Utah County teenager has taken this national competition very seriously. Since the Deseret News Utah Spelling Bee held on March 29, Crowder has studied many hours every day. His mother, Tina Crowder, said he has turned down many basketball games, hiking trips and even his volunteer hours at the local library to study Latin and Greek prefixes and suffixes, word origins and many of those obscure English language rules.
"We know now that the spelling competition is really just the luck of the draw. Ben knew every word up until that point in the competition and was feeling very confident," Tina Crowder said.
"But being from Utah, we don't eat collard greens. Maybe we should take up gardening."
On Tuesday, however, Tina Crowder was feeling a little pressure. She was selected to participate in the Merriam-Webster Parents of Champions Spelling Bee held as a preliminary event for the national event.
Parents compete on three-person teams in a contest that is otherwise very similar to the National Spelling Bee. Tina Crowder's team quietly finished 24th out of 30, missing the word "beleaguered."
Ben Crowder won the trip to Washington, D.C., to participate in the National Spelling Bee courtesy of the Deseret News for taking first place in the Deseret News Utah Spelling Bee Championships.
The national competition resumes for the remaining 103 spellers on Thursday afternoon.