Meah Wilburn is taking it all in stride.
The 12-year-old, sixth-grade student at Highland Park Elementary School is gracefully preparing for the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee May 28-30 in Washington, D.C. after capturing first place at the 2013 Jackson County Spelling Bee Feb. 23 at the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library.
Wilburn, who won the Jackson County bee by spelling correctly the word “lamentation,” didn’t even realize she was victorious after nailing the word used to express sorrow or grief. She tied for fifth place at last year’s Jackson County competition.
“I didn’t expect to win because there were other people there who I thought, in my opinion, were better than me just from seeing them last year,” Wilburn said March 7 during an interview inside the Journal’s office. “But, it was really fun and it was really laid back. I thought it was even more laid back than the school level, but that’s just my opinion. I was surprised to win. I didn’t think I would. Obviously, it was really cool.”
Wilburn’s mother, Laurie, was certain they were on their way to D.C.
“I knew she spelled the word right,” Laurie Wilburn said. “The other (contestant) had missed his word and there wasn’t anybody else left so it was pretty clear she’d won, but we were definitely in shock.”
When Meah Wilburn, an avid swimmer who dabbles in the visual arts, does take her place at the podium at this year’s competition it will mark the fourth year in a row that a Lee’s Summit R-7 student has won first place at the Jackson County Spelling Bee and advanced to the national competition.
Jordan Hoffman represented both the county and the R-7 school district for the last three years at the national bee, tying for eighth place in May of last year. Hoffman, now a student at Lee’s Summit High School, is no longer eligible for the spelling competitions which include students from elementary through middle school. She qualified for the national bee as a sixth-grader at Highland Park Elementary and as a seventh- and eighth-grade student at Pleasant Lea Middle School.
That fact is not lost on Meah Wilburn, who will be accompanied to D.C. by her mother, father, Dan, and younger brother, Hudson, age 10. Wilburn started competing at spelling bees at Highland Park in fourth grade.
“At school, when I was in third and fourth grade, I always liked to pay attention to the spelling bees,” she said. “And I always remembered watching (Hoffman) win. I got to meet her last year when I won and got to the county level and she is really nice.”
Laurie Wilburn said the Hoffman family has been a wealth of knowledge for the Wilburns.
“The Hoffmans were actually at the (Jackson County) spelling bee because it’s a tradition that the winner from the previous year hand off all of the study material,” Laurie Wilburn said. “We went to lunch with them and they gave us the scoop on everything.”
As for the trip to D.C., Meah Wilburn is stoked.
“I’m pretty excited about that,” she said. “What we hear from other people is that it’s really fun there.”