Talk about about your pressure cooker environment!
There you are, standing all alone on stage before a panel of judges (and a group of your peers). National media outlets are recording your every move, adding to a tension that one can cut with a knife.
Then, under the glaring television lights and the gazes of millions, you're forced to spell out a word which the majority of us have never heard of, and will likely never again hear uttered in our lifetime.
Welcome to the National Spelling Bee!
For each of competitors who make it to the big stage in Washington, just participating in a room with the best of the best from around the country is an accomplishment in itself. But like any of today's professional athletes will tell you, they don't show up at the finals just to compete, they come to win.
That happened last night to Sukanya Roy, a 14-year-old from Lackawanna County, who earned the national title after correctly spelling "cymotrichous" which relates to wavy hair. The Abington Heights Middle School student is the fourth consecutive Indian-American to win the bee and the ninth in the last 13 years.
This was her third trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. In 2009, she placed 12th in the competition and last year, she reached the semi-finals before being eliminated on the word "hyleg," an astrological term which Roy incorrectly spelled with an "i" instead of a "y."
Her winning performance of last night conjures up a word which all of us are more familiar with - and should at least know the definition of - p-e-r-s-i-s-t-e-n-c-e. This time of year especially, it is an important term to high school and college graduates who find themselves thrust in the middle of a highly-competitive job market.
Roy comes from a school district that is no stranger when it comes to attaining lofty accomplishments. The high school has had the distinction of being recognized by Money magazine as one of the top 100 schools in the nation.
The district, which has just over 3,500 students, is made up of two boroughs and six townships, and operates four elementary schools. The Abington Heights campus isn't far from Keystone College, which also recently earned national headlines when its baseball team came within just one game from the championship round of the 2011 NCAA Division III World Series in Wisconsin.
Speaking of outstanding baseball, the nearby town of Factoryville is birthplace to Christy Mathewson, the great baseball pitcher whose plaque in the baseball Hall of Fame simply ends with the inscription: "Matty was the master of them all."
Last night, the same could be said of Miss Roy as she became the master of all spellers, putting her school district and all of the Pocono Northeast on the national map.
By Jim Zbick