NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. - For 11 hours on a recent school day, Colorado teenager Sylvie Lamontagne welcomed ESPN to her school and community in advance of the network’s coverage of the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
ESPN3 is streaming the second and third rounds of the Bee beginning at 8 a.m. ET Wednesday. Sylvie is slated to appear in the first hour of spelling on Wednesday.
During the two days of coverage, a short biography on Sylvie will air during ESPN’s telecast.
“It was actually amazing how much work they put in for two-minute pieces,” Sylvie’s mom Suzanne McClung said. “They were with us for 11 hours. They went to her school, they went to her dance studio, and we went to the mountains. They interviewed her and came to our house.”
After Sylvie’s top-10 finish at the 2015 Bee, Sylvie has garnered support from thousands around the Denver area.
“There are lots of people watching her and last year, it was like this kid from Colorado doing really well, and now people say, ‘She did well last year, what is she going to do this year,’” McClung said. “There are a lot of people in Colorado watching.”
Being one of just three top-10 spellers returning from last year, Sylvie realizes expectations are higher this year.
“The experience was really great but also really terrifying because you know there are millions of people watching on TV and around a thousand people in the room watching you,” Sylvie said. “It is also really great because I am actually in the final 10 in the world basically. It is really cool but it is really scary.”
Even though Sylvie has a year of experience under her belt, she is no less nervous this year than she was last year.
“We just had our test and I was shaking the whole time,” she said. “If I am any less nervous, it is not noticeable.”
The Bee is equally nerve-wracking for her parents.
“There is such an element of luck an anticipation,” Sylvie’s father Jeff Lamontagne said. “There are three reaction when a word is announced: One is I know she knows it because we have talked about it, I know she doesn’t know it and sometimes I am just not sure. So the reaction is different every time. When I know she knows it, it is a sigh of relief. When I know she doesn’t know it.”
Sylvie is hoping that months of preparation will pay off by winning the Bee’s top prize of $40,000.
“I learn new words, spellings of new words, and then learn the definition of the words, which is something I usually forget,” Sylvie said. “And the I learn the root, which I study and the fourth thing is language pattern.”
In order for her to participate in this year’s Bee, Sylvie and her family requested that the local spelling bee allow for repeat winners. The hosts of the local bee obliged to her request.
“I had mixed emotions,” Sylvie said about being allowed to defend her local title. “On one hand, I was excited I could try again, but I also had to study the whole year again.”
When she is not studying, she is either reading Harry Potter or dancing jazz or ballet.