Recollections from Nationals 2016 (Part I)

Originally published on Unabridged.

The National Bible Bee Competition ( this year took place in San Antonio, Texas, November 16-20. My sister and I were competing in the Junior division and my two younger siblings in the Primary division.

My family drove across two states to Texas in our eight-passenger van packed with our personal belongings and a good amount of cookware (my brother has severe allergy to soy, eggs, milk, nuts, and peanuts, so we have to cook all his food). We took a one-night stop in El Paso before continuing on to San Antonio.

Registration (Wed. 11/16)

When we arrived in San Antonio, I didn’t feel much of the “Bible Bee spirit” yet; it was more like living in a dream. Until Wednesday afternoon, that is.

On the sixteenth (Wed.) we registered and got our name tags. Our family photo was taken, and right after that a camera crew came up to us and interviewed my siblings and I. I didn’t mind, because I liked interviews, and they said they might see more of us in the following days.

Thursday 11/17

Thursday morning. I woke up early–a little too early, having slept only six hours. I ate as much breakfast as I could get down, then reviewed as many passages as I was able to with my mind going all over the place. I didn’t exactly want to admit to myself that I was n-e-r-v-o-u-s.

As I proceeded to the Computer-Based Test Labs, my thoughts kept going back and forth. You’ll do well, one side said. No, you haven’t prepared yourself enough! the other argued.

I took my seat in front of a small laptop in the Lab and waited quietly for the rest of the contestants to arrive. I kept my eyes open to my surroundings as I tried to calm my beating heart.

I noticed a few people I knew, and some whose names I had seen in the program, and, of course, camera crews. There was also a lady running back and forth from the Labs to where the parents were, because…someone had forgotten his glasses. Someone else supposedly forgot his water bottle but it was discovered he already had one. And yet another person needed her jacket…

Finally it was time to take the test. I listened to the instructions, followed them carefully, and then pressed the “Start Test” button on my screen. Dear G-d, I prayed, please help me to do my best, to remember 1 John and all the passages I memorized, and to give all the glory to You. I relaxed a bit and began to scroll through the questions.

I finished with five minutes left to spare of the 200-multiple-choice-questions-in-one-hour limit. A few more minutes passed before the last contestant finished his/her test, and we all walked outside the rooms in a single-file line to the Oral Test Staging area.

It seemed as if almost everyone had to use the restroom, and we were already behind schedule! There was a lot of running and dashing around during that time.

I got nervous again. I was scared the passages I was asked to recite would be very long ones, and I also felt that I might just totally forget my verses if I was too nervous! I tried to remind myself that everything was in His hands, and that He knew the results of the tests and scores, and that I didn’t have to worry…

Soon it was my turn to recite. I walked into the room, stepped up to the podium, and took a deeeeeep breath. I am usually nervous right before recitations but fortunately not during them.

As the contestant judge read the first passage reference, I felt extremely thankful that the passages weren’t as hard as I had expected! I finished in three minutes (and later discovered, praise G-d, that my oral score was a perfect 500!).

Then the Preliminary Rounds (described above) were over, and I got ready for that night’s Opening Ceremony and Qualifier Awards Presentation Training.

In my previous years of competing in the Bible Bee, the semi-finalists (top 15 from the 120 National competitors) were announced Thursday night during the Opening Ceremony rather than Friday morning in a separate Qualifier Awards Presentation. I can’t say which I prefer, but having to go through the Opening Ceremony wondering the entire time whether or not I was in the Semi-Finals…I couldn’t concentrate very well.

When the Ceremony was over, contestants stayed behind for the Qualifier Awards Presentation Training. This is what we’ll be doing tomorrow morning! I thought excitedly as I waited with the other Juniors for our turn on the stage to take a group photo.

Unfortunately something seemed to be going wrong, and the Seniors had to practice walking onto the stage about three times! The time taken to read aloud 120 names (as each contestant was recognized), sort 120 people in height, etc. wasn’t short. The Primaries (7-10 year olds) were going crazy, the Juniors were laughing and talking, and I was bored–and nervous.

Then finally it was the Primaries’ turn for the group photo, and that took even longer. The Juniors were left by themselves, and someone started singing. And singing. And singing. There were hymns, Christmas carols…I didn’t feel like singing and so paced back and forth about five feet or so until it was time for the Juniors to get photos.

We walked onto the stage one by one when our names were called. When everyone had assembled we were sorted into two groups, depending on whether you were over five feet in height or under five feet in height. I still had about a half-inch to go before I reached five feet (and I wasn’t about to tiptoe), so I ended up in the shorter group. In overall height I was actually placed in the middle–so, not too bad, I thought, thinking about the time I was a ten-year-old Primary and was one of the ten shortest ones out of 120 7-10 year-olds.

To be continued next month…

Catherine Chen
Catherine Chen
Articles: 4


  1. Wow, this felt so long ago; the way you described everything makes me feel like I’m reliving it…in your shoes. 🙂 I can’t wait for Part 2!

  2. I get the height thing. When I was nine years old, I was the second shortest out of all 120 ten-year-olds! Ooh, and I remember the singing! That was fun! 🙂
    I really enjoyed reading this; thank you!

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