Lucy Heath, Aiken County's champion speller, won't get to participate in Washington, D.C., in June at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which was cancelled because of COVID-19.

But Heath won't have to spell disappointment.

The eighth grader at Langely-Bath-Clearwater Middle School in Bath, competed from her home in North Augusta on Wednesday via Zoom in a virtual, online mini-bee with students from around the country.

"1A," an American radio talk show produced in Washington and distributed nationally by NPR, chose Heath and three other eighth graders to participate in the 1A (Mini) Spelling Bee. The other students spelled from their homes in Ohio, Texas and Michigan.

To watch the spelling bee, visit

Before the bee began, hostess Sasha-Ann Simons, the national correspondent 1A, asked the students their reactions when they learned the national bee had been canceled.

“My reaction was really – really – really? After so long. After all that – yeah,” said Heath, who won the Aiken County Scripps National Spelling Bee in February.

“I know, right. It's tough,” Simons said.

The students competed in two rounds, the first using moderately difficult words and the second, medium difficult words. They were not eliminated, as in a traditional bee, for misspelling a word. Instead, a misspelled word went to the next contestant or the next.

Between rounds, the hostess talked with the contestants and asked them, besides spelling, what they've been doing with schools closed.

“I play the French horn, so I've been having some fun with that,” said Heath, a daughter of Clinton and Deborah Heath.

"If we had time, I'd say break it out and play a little something for us. I'm sure it's magnificent,” Simons said.

During the third round, each contestant spelled a past national winning word. Heath, the last speller of the competition, got the word marocain, a crepe fabric made of silk, wool or rayon, which she missed.

The students earned points for correctly spelled words and zero points for misses. Heath placed fourth.

According to Scripps rules, a “speller must not have passed beyond the eighth grade on or before Aug. 31, 2019.” Unless Scripps changes the rules, Heath and her peers will not be eligible to compete in future bees.

According to the Scripps website, “The Bee has determined there is no clear path to safely set a new date in 2020.”

This year is the first time the bee has been canceled since World War II.

When asked if she would compete in a modified national bee this year or next year's bee, Heath gave a simple answer that's easy to spell.

“Yes,” she said.

​Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.