The word at the Scripps National Spelling Bee last week for one local contestant may have been "defeat," but Mitsuki Ota isn't letting a setback stop him from trying again to make it to the national spelling stage.
Mitsuki, 13, was one of 11 spellers from Maryland, and the first from the Columbia Academy to make it to the national level. He joined 280 other spellers at the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee, held May 28-30 in Oxon Hill in Prince George's County.
Tom Kincaid, the school's owner, said Mitsuki's seventh-grade classmates all took the bus to Oxon Hill last week to cheer him on. Mitsuki said it was "exciting" and made him "so happy" his classmates and friends made the trip.
He said he had the loudest applause of any contestant because of that showing of support. However, he came up short nearly immediately, in the computer-based preliminary tests administered May 28.
"It was really hard, and I felt a lot of pressure," Mitsuki said. "Unfortunately, I could not get past the preliminary test. It was much harder than I expected. But I'll try again next year. I'll try again."
Still, Kincaid said, he felt Mitsuki did "pretty good," all things considered.
"It makes us really proud that we have a student that can qualify for something like that," Kincaid said. "He's been with us for years and years and years, and he's a very intelligent young man, I can tell you that."
Intelligent, indeed — Kincaid said that as a seventh-grader, Mitsuki is already taking calculus. According to his Scripps biography, while Mitsuki enjoys such pastimes as piano, art, ice skating, soccer and video games, he also hopes to become a surgeon when he becomes an adult. He has earned a spot on the high honor roll at the Columbia Academy for five consecutive years.
Just less than three months ago, Mitsuki won at the local level, correctly spelling "sebaceous." It was his fourth time competing in the annual Howard County Library System Spelling Bee.
As part of his winnings from the Howard bee in March, Mitsuki took home a trophy — now on display at the Columbia Academy — a copy of Webster's Third New World International Dictionary and a $1,000 scholarship.
Mitsuki said he's already looking ahead to next year.
"All these years, I couldn't get past the county level because of these two boys (past Howard champions Sam Osheroff and Jack Nolan)," Mitsuki said. "But now, I know it's in my grasp, the ability to get to the National Bee. I'm very excited to try again. I'm just going to study this whole year."