South Florida Student Makes it to the National Spelling Bee Finals

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There’s nothing like watching middle school kids spell words you’ve never heard of to make an adult feel inadequate. Go ahead and watch the Scripps National Spelling Bee and you will see what I mean.

A local seventh grader has made it to the finals by spelling words such as “marae,” which, of course, is a traditional Maori tribal meeting place.

Simone Kaplan, a student at St. Bonaventure Catholic School in Davie, is on her second straight trip to the finals in Washington, D.C.

“I am feeling confident, I have more experience, but sometimes experience can be a bit overrated,” Simone said today after finishing the morning and afternoon rounds without making any mistakes. 

Simone’s classmates held a watch party at school today, bursting into thunderous cheers every time she completed a word.

“We’re all proud of her here, doesn’t really matter if she loses, to us she’s already a winner here,” said classmate Javier Colon.

“It’s just unbelievable how well she’s done, how hard she’s worked and we’ve all been cheering for her,” added another friend and classmate, Quinn O’Keefe.

Simone’s teachers say you won’t find a more dedicated student.

“Very driven, very driven, but not to the point where it takes her whole life, she does have other interests,” said Ann Robbie, a teacher at the school. “And she’s really supportive of other students, she’s a team player.”

And she can spell xystus, varsovienne, fissiped, and cheiloplasty without using Spellcheck. I know what you’re thinking, but yes, those are real words in the English language.

We know how to spell “winner.” S-I-M-O-N-E.

The final round begins at 8:30 Thursday night. Simone is in the last 16 competitors vying for the championship.

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