Tue | Jul 17, 2018

Blackwood garners valuable life lessons from Scripps

Published:Friday | May 27, 2016 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Chaunté Blackwood, 13, of Kingston, Jamaica, seen during the final round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland, yesterday.

Though Jamaica's Chaunté Blackwood would have wanted to be the winner of this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee, she is treasuring what was taught and the experience that she gained at the competition, valuable lessons, she says, which will be instrumental throughout her life's journey.

The 13-year-old was eliminated in round five of the competition after she misspelt the word "photophygous", defined as preferring or thriving in shade. The competition took place in Washington, DC.

"What I have learnt throughout this whole experience is that family is important, and it doesn't necessarily mean your immediate family, but persons who you have met along the way. Friends, my coach, and the Gleaner team have been a good support system," she told The Gleaner in an interview.

"Knowing how words work and how you break them down are crucial aspects of the competition. I think this will certainly help me in areas such as English literature because spelling allows you to analyse material. I find that I do very well in English literature because of that," the Ardenne High School student said.


Int'l competitors eliminated


Four spellers have also been eliminated in round five, including Ghana's Afua Ansah.

Ansah and Blackwood's departure denied international competitors the opportunity to take home the coveted trophy as Jamaica's Jody-Anne Maxwell did in 1998 when she placed first in the competition. Spellers in Jamaica have been competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee for 20 years.

Blackwood is coached by Hanif Brown, a former national champion who competed at Scripps in 2011 and a sixth-former at Ardenne High School.

Brown took over coaching after the 2015 death of legendary award-winning coach the Reverend Glen Archer. He had to leave the competition to take an exam that couldn't be rescheduled.

Blackwood pointed out that her parents had been instrumental throughout her journey.

"When I heard the bell indicating that I got the word wrong, the truth is I wasn't surprised because somehow, I guess it's the spelling intuition, I had a feeling that I was spelling the word wrong. When I walked off the stage, I felt like crying but I held it in," Blackwood said.

"My parents told me that they are proud of me, and I am happy that I have their support," she continued.

Nordia Craig, business development and marketing manager at The Gleaner who accompanied Blackwood to Washington, said she was extremely proud of Blackwood's performance, indicating that the Jamaicans never disappoint.

"Even though we might not win, I never view our spellers' performance as a disappointment despite our placement. The words this year were extremely difficult and I believe she did a wonderful job," Craig said.

"Our participants generally do well and this year is no different. We never do a terrible job. Our spellers come here year after year and perform well."