Zachary Hunsaker

Declo Junior High School student Zachary Hunsaker, 14, competes Wednesday in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md.

Mark Bowen, Scripps National Spelling Bee)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. | Declo Junior High School student Zachary Hunsaker narrowly missed making it to the final competition at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The 14-year-old was only two points away from qualifying for the finals.

“He did a great job,” Declo Junior High School principal Scott Muir said. “That’s pretty darn close.”

Zachary correctly spelled two words on stage in National Harbor, Md., during the preliminary competition: trichinosis (a parasitic disease caused by roundworm) and exasperate (to irritate or provoke). It was broadcast live on ESPN3 and online.

Zachary told the Times-News on Thursday that spelling words on stage was nerve-racking. “I was pretty nervous, especially before I spelled,” he said. “After that, it was OK.”

He won’t be able to try again for next year’s spelling bee. Competition is limited to those in grades lower than eight.

Zachary said he enjoyed meeting fellow spelling bee competitors this week from all over the country.

And on Thursday, he did sightseeing in Washington, D.C., including visits to the Washington Monument and war memorials. It was his first trip to the nation’s Capitol.

At the spelling bee, there were 285 competitors at the beginning of round three and Zachary was among 171 students who made it through successfully.

The final competition Thursday featured just 45 total spellers.

Students made it to the finals based on a point system, factoring in their performance in the preliminary competition, and scores on a written spelling and vocabulary test.

Declo school employees watched the spelling bee closely Wednesday on ESPN3 and caught glimpses of Zachary on camera.

“We’re just proud of him,” Muir said, describing the student as hardworking and driven. “He did a great job and kept his composure.”

In March, Zachary won the Times-News regional spelling bee. The Times-News sponsored his trip to compete at the national spelling bee.


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