WASHINGTON, D.C. - Brianna Piergallini came oh-so-close, but she and her family said they have no regrets.
The seventh-grader at Indian Creek Junior High School traveled with her parents, Lori and Lewis Piergallini, and sisters, Bianca and Brooke, by train to Washington last weekend to represent Jefferson County in competition against 274 other spellers from around the world during the 84th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington.
In the first three days of competition Brianna scored a total of 28 just one word short of making the cut to advance to the finals. Although Brianna narrowly missed making the finals, the family is taking solace in a trip her mother said was a once-in-a-lifetime event.
"She's had a wonderful time," said Lori, adding Brianna studied up to the final minutes for the bee. "We fell short in the finals. Only 41 of the 275 spellers moved on (to final competition today)."
Lori said she was amazed and proud of her daughter correctly spelling two challenging words June 1 during the onstage rounds including the words "mnemonic," which is defined as something designed to aid the memory of or associations that assist in remembering something, and "patois," which is defined as a dialect other than the standard or literary dialect.
The score to make it to the finals included the combined scores of three rounds of testing, said Lori, adding the spellers had to correctly spell 25 words that they hadn't encountered in lists given to them by Scripps in the May 31 written portion of the competition. Brianna earned the right to advance to the finals by beating 40 other fellow spellers March 5 during the 27th-annual Jefferson County Regional Spelling Bee, co-sponsored by Eastern Gateway Community College and the Herald-Star.
June 1 was the day all 275 spellers ages 8 to 15 from across the United States and around the world took turns in the spotlight, getting to spell two words without the fear of being dinged off the stage by the dreaded elimination bell. Their scores were combined with a 25-word written test to determine the semifinalists.
Lori said although Brianna came up one word short, the family had been enjoying themselves. "(Brianna's) met kids from New Zealand, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Jamaica, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada," said Lori.
"Well, now I'm free to just enjoy myself," said Brianna, adding the family will now spend time exploring the nation's capital, attending the finals this evening and attending the awards banquet and a party for spellers June 3. "I met a lot of people. They thought I sounded funny, and I thought they sounded funny."
Lori said the family will be traveling back to Jefferson County Saturday, and she expressed gratitude to the Herald-Star and other sponsors for making the trip possible.
"I just can't thank everyone enough," said Lori. "This has been a great family trip. Everyone's just been so wonderful."
Sponsors for the local bee included Eastern Gateway Community College, Huntington Bank, Uniglobe Ohio Valley Travel and Amtrak for travel accommodations to the national bee, the Ohio Lottery Commission for funding registration fees for spellers across the state and the Jefferson County Educational Service Center.
Lori also said her daughter already is thinking about next year, as Brianna still will be eligible to compete in the county bee again.
"There are some spellers that have been here three or four times," she said. "And there's always next year."
(Miller can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)