Collin Shea said he would study harder than ever for next year’s National Spelling Bee, after being eliminated from the competition at his first appearance Wednesday morning.
“I’m going to study the whole dictionary,” said Shea, 11, a fifth-grader from the Fulton County town of Mayfield. “I felt really disappointed because I studied a lot.”
He also felt nervous approaching the mic, with hundreds of people watching from the crowd and many more viewing the bee on TV and online. The word he was given was “onerous,” which he misspelled as “honorous.”
“He’s obviously a little disappointed, but I think after about a half hour he snapped out of it and said he’s going to do everything he can to get back here next year,” said Shea’s father, Kevin Shea.
Shea also has something to look forward to. The Friday before the bee, he and his parents, along with his brother, Grady, traveled down to the hotel and convention center in Maryland where the competition was being held, less than 10 miles from the nation’s capital. All week he toured Washington D.C. with his family and other contestants. They went to Nationals Park for a barbecue on Memorial Day and toured the different national monuments.
The Washington Monument was his favorite, said Shea, who had already found the silver lining in his defeat by Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m happy that I don’t have to go to any more spelling bees during my time here so I can go around and see the city,” he said.
Back home, his classmates from Mayfield Elementary School watched him compete from the school’s library. His teacher, Dan Daniger, thinks Shea may have overthought the word he was tasked with spelling. But, added Daniger, his classmates are still proud of him.
“They were disappointed for him but they’re very excited he made it to the National Spelling Bee,” said Daniger.
Shea was described by his teacher as academically gifted, especially when it comes to algebra.
“He’s my classroom check, if I think I’m wrong I’ll ask him,” said Daniger. “This won’t hold him back; it was about the experience. This was about meeting a challenge and applying it to other situations.”
Shea’s best friend is Alexis Broderick, who he has known since kindergarten. Broderick, 10, said it was cool to watch Shea compete and that she was happy for him. She has a message for him when he gets back.
“I’ll say, ‘Good job, you tried your best, you got to nationals, and that’s really good,’” said Broderick.
Principal Nicholas Criscone agrees with Broderick’s assessment, and said the school will congratulate Shea together upon his return.
“He did good, he made it to nationals,” said Criscone. “We’ll figure something out.”
The Friday before the competition the entire school lined up and cheered Shea at dismissal.
Shea said he’s going to start hitting the books for next year. On Friday, he’s looking forward to the National Spelling Bee banquet, where he can get his spelling bee yearbook signed by other contestants.
Kevin Shea said the family isn’t coming home until Sunday, and that they’ve turned his son’s appearance at the bee into a vacation.
“It’s really quite an event, it’s not just a spelling bee,” said Kevin Shea. “They have all sorts of activities for the kids.”