Fayette County

Kentucky 13-year-old falls short in Scripps National Spelling Bee

Kentucky student competes in Scripps National Spelling Bee

Tirzah Schanding, a 13-year- old from Winchester, competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
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Tirzah Schanding, a 13-year- old from Winchester, competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

O-S-C-I- L-L-O-M-E-T- E-R.

noun, Medicine/Medical. – an instrument for measuring the changes in pulsations in the arteries, especially of the extremities — Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Tirzah Schanding, a 13-year-old from Winchester, had already made it to the second round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee Wednesday. Then they called her next word.

With a sense of nervousness and a hushed crowd in the background, she asked for the origin and alternate pronunciations, and then spelled oscillometer with ease in round two.

Tirzah, a home-schooled student with Classical Conversations, practiced for two years and won multiple competitions in her hometown. She prepared for the national stage by studying with friends and on Word Club, the spelling bee practice website.

She said her most challenging word during preparation was rangiferine, meaning the relation to reindeer or caribou.

While Tirzah waited for round three to begin, she cracked some jokes with the family.

“How do you spell your name? … No, it’s Y-O-U-R N-A- M-E.”

Tirzah also competes in the National Federation of Music Club piano festival, and she placed second in the Bach Festival last year. Her favorite song to play is Sonatina in C Major by Friedrich Kuhlau. She also placed in the top 10 in a geography bee this year.

Aside from dedicating her time to studying for the spelling bee, she loves to read. Favorite books include The Lord of the Rings, Inheritance Cycle, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

She also enjoys the outdoors. Last year, she hiked in Badlands National Park and visited Yellowstone National Park.

At the microphone in the third round, she nervously pondered the next word, and then again asked for it in a sentence. Then she asked for the word to be repeated again. As she started spelling, Tirzah asked for clarity then requested to start over again.

“A-F- F-A-B-L- E?” she asked.


If Tirzah had won the $40,000 cash prize, she had hoped to use the money toward her college education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or the University of Kentucky, to study robotics.

But even though she spelled all of her words correctly, Tirzah didn’t pass the preliminary written exam. As a result, when the points were tallied at the end of the day, she didn’t have enough to make it to the final round.

“I knew this would happen,” she said after the results were announced. In all, 45 students from all over the world will be back Thursday for the final round.

Tirzah wasn’t too disappointed. She said now she can enjoy her vacation, “and go swimming.”