ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Tuesday, more than 200 spellers competed in the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee. Among those participating this year is Wylie ISD student, Tessa Jones.

At 14 years old, Tessa’s success with school spelling bees began in the fifth grade. 

“In fifth through seventh [grades], I got second place, then eighth grade was the first year I won. That is when I went to regionals,” Tessa told KTAB/KRBC. 

Here in Abilene, Tessa won the 23rd annual Big Country Spelling Bee, leading her to where she is now competing at nationals in National Harbor, Maryland. 

“I’m really glad that I won when I did, so that I got to go because it’s just such a cool time and it’s an experience that you will remember for the rest of your life,” Tessa said. “So, I’m really thankful that I got to come.”

Collin Jones, Tessa’s father, told KTAB/KRBC he’s helped Tessa study her vocabulary words every step of the way, and feels blessed to see how far she has come. 

“It takes so many people to raise kids and do it hopefully the right way,” Mr. Jones said. “It takes a lot of grace and we’re just grateful that this is just a sign that she’s on the right track.”

Mr. Jones said watching his daughter grow has been an amazing experience for him. 

“You know, she’s going to be in high school this coming fall, and we don’t have much more time where she’s just here and we’re together. So any minute I can carve out is valuable,” Mr. Jones explained.

Tessa gave thanks to her father, family, and the Wylie community, as she revealed that she would not be at nationals without their support. 

“I couldn’t have been here without them so I’m just thankful for all the help I’ve been given,” said Tessa. 

Tessa advanced through Tuesday’s preliminary round, by correctly spelling the words tapetum, jocularity and symbiotic

Up next are the quarterfinals, which takes place Wednesday at 7:00 in the morning. If Tessa moves past that, she will make it to the televised bee on Thursday.  

To keep up with each participant including Tessa Jones, click here to follow the Scripps National Spelling Bee Twitter page, where live updates are tweeted.