Hancock student moves on to national spelling bee

HANCOCK – Shannon Nulf is headed to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. during the last week in May, and she’s really excited about the chance to go.

Nulf, an eighth-grade student at Hancock Middle School, said she was surprised when she won the Upper Peninsula regional competition held March 13 at Negaunee High School.

Getting to the national spelling bee required succeeding at several preliminary steps, Nulf said.

“You have to get first or second (place) in your class,” she said.

After the classroom competition, Nulf said she had to place first or second in her grade. In February, she had to place first or second in a Copper Country Intermediate School District competition at Houghton High School. Winning that competition got her to the competition in Negaunee.

“This is the first time I made it to the (U.P.) competition,” she said.

Rather than one Michigan winner, Nulf said there is one winner each for the Upper and Lower peninsulas.

This isn’t her first time participating in a spelling bee, Nulf said.

“I’ve been involved in … spelling bees since the fifth grade,” she said.

She took part in classroom or practice bees, also, Nulf said. Prior to this year, the highest she placed in any of the competitions was third.

At the Negaunee competition, Nulf said fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade classes competed.

“We went for five rounds,” she said.

Eventually, she and one other eighth-grade girl were left. They had to spell “reprehensible,” but the other girl got it wrong. Nulf then had to spell it, which she did correctly, and that moved her into the top four finisher’s competition.

At the Negaunee competition, Nulf said she experienced some nervousness early on.

“Right before the top four (in each grade) competition, I was kind of freaking out,” she said.

Her mother had to calm her down, Nulf said. When competition started, the fifth- and sixth-grade students “went out pretty quickly.”

She and a seventh-grade girl were the final two in the Negaunee competition, Nulf said. They both misspelled “gunnysack” and one other word.

“That was kind of stressful,” she said.

Finally, the other girl misspelled “maxim,” and Nulf correctly spelled it. To finish the competition, she correctly spelled “effigy,” although she wasn’t really certain about it.

“I spelled it really quickly,” she said.

The fact she won the competition was sort of a surprise to her, Nulf said.

“I just kind of freaked out,” she said.

Hancock Middle School Principal and Hancock Public Schools Superintendent Monica Healy said she’s very impressed with what Nulf has accomplished getting to the national competition.

“It’s very exciting,” she said.

In her 10 years at Hancock schools, Healy said this is the first time any student has made it to the national competition.

Although it’s uncertain exactly what it will be, Healy said the school will do some sort of send-off for Nulf in May.

Healy said she’s glad Nulf is going to the national competition.

“She’ll be a good representative,” she said.

Nulf said the spelling bee organizers gave each competitor for the national competition a list of possible words for the bee to study.

Even if she goes out in the first round of competition, Nulf said she’ll stay in Washington, D.C.

“I don’t expect to make it very far,” she said. “A lot of kids, their whole life is spelling.”

The trip to Washington, D.C. is being paid for by Scripps, Nulf said.

Although her life doesn’t revolve around spelling, Nulf said she still enjoys doing them.

“I like the feeling of doing well,” she said. “I’ve just tried hard to do my best.”

She does have a motivation for doing well at the national competition, Nulf said. One of her former math teachers will be showing the competition in class.

“I don’t want to do badly in front of them,” she said.