COLUMBIANA — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the cancellation of many memorable events and activities for K-12 students around the country. From graduation to dances to end-of-the-year celebrations, students have missed out on countless opportunities.
When the national spelling bee was canceled for the first time since 1945 on April 21, the event became yet another casualty of the coronavirus. Columbiana eighth-grader Chloe Gill won the county spelling bee and was ready to move on to the national bee. Needless to say, Gill was upset by the news, but she also wasn’t surprised.
“I wasn’t too surprised,” Chloe said. “I didn’t really expect to be going because of the coronavirus. I was still preparing though. Every night my mom and I would practice words for a couple hours.”
Chloe’s parents, Jeff and Kathy, were also disappointed in the cancellation, but they emphasized that they are proud of Chloe. Practicing with Chloe almost every day, Kathy said she enjoyed the time spent with her daughter.
“I was a little disappointed,” Kathy said. “I know she was looking forward to going, but at the same time it’s understandable with everything else going on. We kind of walked out the day of the county bee and figured she wouldn’t get to go.”
In response to the cancellation, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has posted the pictures and names of all of the county winners, but unfortunately, many counties didn’t have a chance to complete their county bee.
Since Gill was an eighth grader, she will be moving on to high school next year. That means that the national competition in Washington, D.C., would have been her last opportunity to compete. Executive director of the Scripps-sponsored national bee, Paige Kimble, expressed her apologies on their website to the eighth-graders who missed out on the opportunity.
“Our hearts go out to the spellers who won’t get their final shot at winning because of the pandemic and the difficult decisions it is prompting us to make,” said Kimble. “They are now part of a widely expanding group of children and adults who are missing out on opportunities due to the coronavirus.”
Jeff was an educator for 33 years and now works for the Columbiana County Educational Service Center, which hosts the spelling bee. He realizes the importance of education and how great of an opportunity the spelling bee is.
“She did a great job,” Jeff said of Chloe. “She and her mother worked hours for this, and they both really persevered. There was around 5,000 words on the list, and they covered 4,000 of them. They didn’t just go over how to spell them but also meanings of the word and contexts. It wasn’t always fun, but she did an excellent job of always continuing to work at it.”
Chloe became interested in spelling because she loves to read. And although she will lose her eligibility moving forward, she is confident that she’ll never stop learning new words.
While Chloe has missed out on the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the coronavirus can’t take one thing away: She is the 2020 Columbiana County Spelling Bee champion.