Mideast edition, Friday, June 1, 2007

WASHINGTON - The competitors first feel the pressure when they take the stage.

Past the banners announcing the Scripps National Spelling Bee and the glare of the stage lights, the students can see outlines of network camera crews mixed among hundreds of onlookers hoping that their hometown contestant's next obscure tongue- twister won't be their last.

When it was her turn, Rachel Money laughed.

"I was pretty excited, and we had been making jokes about the announcer's voice all day, so when I heard him I just couldn't stop laughing," said Money, a seventh-grader from Baumholder American High School in Germany and the contest's representative from Department of Defense Dependents Schools Europe.

"So I wasn't nervous. It's been a lot of fun."

Money, who was sponsored by Stars and Stripes in the event, correctly spelled "exasperating" after she stopped giggling on Wednesday, but failed to make the cut for the later rounds of the competition.

She correctly spelled 13 words in the 25-word preliminary round quiz - featuring bizarre challenges like "noesis" and "Bewusstseinslage" but fell two short of the cut. Her father, Lt. Col. Michael Money of the U.S. Army Health Clinic, said she was furious with herself but he couldn't be prouder.

"She has studied so hard and learned so much," he said. It's really going to help her with everything she does in life."

This year's bee, the 80th time the contest has been held, featured 286 competitors from across the globe and more than $60,000 in prizes, including a $20,000 check for the top speller. The final rounds of the competition were scheduled to take place Thursday evening, after press time.

Money said she studied word lists and language tricks leading up to the national competition, but spelling has always come naturally for her. She was third in the European regional last year, and even won a Texas regional competition when she was in second grade.

"I want to be back here next year," she said. I want to get back and start studying right away."

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now