Park Record Spelling Bee champ steps onto national stage
Melinda Buhlman hopes to best last year’s finish
During last year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee, in front of the television cameras and under the bright lights, Melinda Buhlman didn’t miss a single word.
However, she didn’t score high enough on the preliminary spelling and vocabulary test before the bee to become one of the 50 finalists when the field was whittled down after the first two rounds of competition.
This year, in a return trip to the biggest stage in spelling, Buhlman hopes to clear that hurdle. After she won the Park Record Spelling Bee in March for the second consecutive year, The Park Record is sponsoring a return trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee for Buhlman, an eighth-grader from Rocky Mountain Middle School in Heber City. She said she has spent the last few months waking up early to study in order to improve her performance in the preliminary test.
“This year, I’ve branched out and have been going through the words and definitions and finding words that I don’t know,” she said. “And I’ve branched out into looking at Greek and Latin roots. I also found a list of the 300 most difficult SAT words that I’m going through, too.”
Buhlman was set to find out if her efforts paid off. She took the preliminary test Monday, and the bee was scheduled to kick off in earnest Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Regardless of how she performs, however, she was thrilled to be competing again, especially since it will be her last bee. As an eighth-grader, she will not be eligible to compete next year.
“Last year, they shared with me that you’re more likely to get struck by lightning than to go to the spelling bee,” she said. “And to go a second time is even less likely. Not many students get to do this.”
She added that everyone at her school, including the students she competed against to qualify for the Park Record Bee are rooting for her.
“People are supportive, which is really awesome,” she said. “People don’t have any hard feelings and are like, ‘Go ahead, do the best you can.’ Everybody is just super excited.”
Buhlman’s mother, Allison Buhlman, said she has always enjoyed spelling, as well, so it’s been wonderful connecting with her daughter over a shared passion. More than that, it’s made her proud to watch how hard Melinda has worked to prepare for the competition, regardless of whether she becomes one of the 50 finalists.
“She’s an awesome student all-around,” she said. “So I just couldn’t be more pleased with her.”