The master of ceremonies made sure everyone in the audience knew the big moment had arrived.
Nebraskan Payton Smidt, 12, could punch her ticket to the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Saturday by spelling one more word.
Spell it right, and she would win the 2019 Midwest Spelling Bee.
Standing in her way was a word she had never seen.
Payton looked cool and calm stepping to the microphone at center stage but later said she was “kind of panicking.”
The word was vitrine — defined as a glass display case — but how to spell it wasn’t so clear.
“I was about to spell it with an E after the first letter, but then I changed my mind and spelled it with an I, and that was right,” she said.
The seventh-grader from the Tri County Public Schools in DeWitt, Nebraska, won the bee, earning a trip to the national bee and a shot at spelling superstardom.
About 70 students from across Nebraska and western Iowa competed in the Midwest Bee, which was held at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center in downtown Omaha.