NEW BREMEN — New Bremen spelling bee winner Alexa Paulus told her mother, Teresa Paulus, walking into the bee Tuesday night to have low expectations for her performance.
“Mom, I’m not going to win — don’t be ashamed,” Alexa Paulus recalled saying.
With a family history of bee winners, and a sister who had taken first place before, Paulus didn’t think she’d studied enough to win in the 35-student competition. But spelling the word “flirtatious,” when second place winner Erin Smith missed it sealed the win in New Bremen’s middle school gym, sending Paulus to Lima on March 23 to compete in the regional championship.
“It was a shock,” Paulus said.
This is the first year that a county bee has been canceled in favor of the champions from all schools going to regional competition. The change put the participants one competition closer to the national title in a competition where preparation runs in tandem with an element of luck depending on which word a contestant gets.
Paulus readily admitted there were words that some competitors missed that she wouldn’t have known if they had been her words.
Paulus said she has to immediately start studying the words in study hall, using a spelling bee app on her iPod, and having her siblings quiz her at home to prepare for the regional competition.
The most difficult part, she said, is maintaining the focus to spell them correctly out loud without making any mistakes. It’s easy to doubt what she knows, Paulus said, citing that she’d almost put an extra “M” in “flaming” early in the competition.
Smith, the second-place winner and daughter of Steve and Teresa Smith, said her most difficult challenge is handling words where letters are silent, like the word “flirtatious” that lost her the title.
“Also, I think it was sort of nerves,” she said.
The regional competition will be at 10 a.m. March 23 at the Civic Center in Lima. Paulus will compete, and Smith is the alternate.