Reporter: Mark Kelly l Videographer: Parker Slaybaugh
Forest, VA - Can you spell cymotrichous? One girl can, and she took home the title of best speller in the country last year. This year, a teenage girl from Lynchburg is headed to the same spelling bee.
Sarah Phillips parents have been helping her study for weeks now. But the Phillips family is also proud that their daughter is more than a good speller, she's also well-rounded. She likes math and science, but also acting, dancing and singing. Sarah Phillips is very much the over-achiever. She's got more interests than hours in a day.
"I'm really interested in law, so maybe like a Supreme Court justice," said Sarah.
An eighth-grader, Sarah is an A-student. But for months she's been studying for a Bee.
"Exhilarating, kinda nerve racking. Because this is my first time to the Bee," said Sarah.
She's talking about the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee. It's broadcast across the nation on ESPN. You've probably stumbled across it and asked yourself why a spelling bee is on a sports channel? Well, once you meet Sarah Phillips, you understand.
"Spelling is, it's just really important," said Sarah.
"I never once have to tell her to go study," said Bernadette Phillips, Sarah's mom.
For Sarah, the Spelling Bee is a sport. And the National Spelling Bee, which she qualified for and competes in at the end of May, is the Olympics of bees The competition is real, raw and even weighs on mom.
"I was just like a nervous wreck. My hands were shaking, I was sitting all the way in the back. I would look down, I couldn't even look at her. I would look down thinking is this over yet,"said Bernadette.
Sarah won regionals spelling egregious - a word many adults would stumble over. Now, it's on to Nationals - the big time! The winner there claims the title best speller in the country. But the prize comes with sacrifice.
"I've been trying to get through those books," said Sarah.
Sarah spends every moment studying for the bee: on the computer, at the sink and even when she's washing up. She studies the traditional way too - at the kitchen table, book in hand, and mom as coach.
According to the National Spelling Bee, some contestants have parents who spell. Admittedly, Sarah's mom is not one of them.
"I did one spelling bee, I think, in the 4th grade. Got out on the word, which I still remember, grasshopper. I think I added either one too many p's or not enough p's. And I was the type from then on would never attempt it again," said Bernadette.
But her kids do. The youngest, Justin, went on to regionals last year. Now, he cheers on his big sis.
"I'll learn a lot of new words from her because I hear her spelling them all the time," said Justin Phillips, Sarah's brother.
"And you never say, 'Sarah, cut it out?'" we asked.
"No, not really," said Justin.
We may not know the outcome, or if she'll win the National Bee. But, we do know Sarah Phillips is prepared to become the Queen Bee.
"I don't really know what to expect. But, I know it's going to be really fun," said Sarah.
In a way, Sarah's already won a great prize. The News and Advance newspaper is her sponsor. They've given Sarah and a guardian an all-expenses paid trip to the national competition in D.C. If Sarah wins nationals, she walks away with $30,000, a trophy, scholarship money, an encyclopedia and title of the best speller in the country.