Pyo competes in spelling bee

Shelby County resident and word whiz Grace Pyo takes the mike today in Washington for the 80th Scripps National Spelling Bee.

&8220;It&8217;s really just a blessing to be here in Washington,&8221; Pyo said from her mother&8217;s cell phone, shortly after arriving. The home-schooled eighth-grader qualified after winning the state bee last week, beating out 64 spellers from around the state.

&8220;I definitely wanted to win,&8221; Pyo said of the recent competition. &8220;Last year, I went to the state bee and got fifth, so I got a taste of what it&8217;s like at the top.&8221;

It took a lot of hard work, prayer and studying to get her there again this year, she said. Before the school year ended she studied one to two hours a day; since then, she&8217;s been studying three to four.

Her study resources include stacks of flash cards and a list of 18,000 words, which she records on her iPod to playback and practice on her own. She also studies Latin and Greek to help with roots and occasionally seeks a study partner, little sister Anna.

&8220;She helps give me spelling words. She&8217;s a pretty good pronouncer,&8221; Pyo said.

This year&8217;s bee has a record number of spellers at 286. Events started Sunday with bee preliminaries and quarterfinals taking place today.

&8220;I&8217;m a little bit nervous,&8221; Pyo said. &8220;I&8217;ve read so much about it and, to be here, is a little bit exhilarating.&8221;

Despite the pressure of competition, Pyo has been enjoying the 10-day vacation with her family.

&8220;I&8217;m really just excited about being in Washington and meeting other spellers, people who share my interest.&8221;

The only national winner to come from Alabama was in 1974.