OXON HILL, Md. — Rachael Cundey, a seventh-grader at Lakeside Middle School, was one of 50 spellers to advance to the semifinals of the 85th Scripps National Spelling Bee on Wednesday.
Rachael, 13, who won the local qualifying bee for the fourth year in row in March, correctly spelled “cartel” in Round 2 and “metacarpal” in Round 3.
She is sponsored by The Augusta Chronicle.
There were 278 spellers in the preliminary rounds, and each spelled two words onstage Wednesday. Their scores were combined with a 50-word computer test they took Tuesday.
The youngest speller in the bee’s history was tripped up in the onstage rounds and won’t progress to the semifinals today.
Acknowledging the popularity of Lori Anne Madison, the home-schooled 6-year-old from Woodbridge, Va., bee Director Paige P. Kimble asked the audience for applause for the pint-size speller before announcing the 50 semifinalists.
By far the crowd-pleaser of the early preliminary rounds, Lori Anne correctly spelled “dirigible,” a steerable airship, in the second round, but misspelled “ingluvies,” or crop of a bird or insect, in the third round.
She began her spelling with an “e.” That knocked her out of contention in the 85th annual bee, being held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland.
Throughout the second and third rounds of the event Wednesday, spellers misspelled a cascade of words, including: “segue,” the verbal movement to another topic; “dragoon,” to force with violence; “dossier,” a file or report; “sassafras,” a type of tea; and a repeat offender, “recidivist.”
But they nailed a host of gems, such as: “repartee,” a clever retort; “basmati,” a type of rice; “beetewk,” a Russian draft horse; “theomachy,” a battle between gods; and “kohlrabi,” a kind of cabbage.
Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kan., whose sister Kavya won the Bee in 2009, was the only perfect scorer on the written test Tuesday, and got both of her onstage words right. Asked about expectations for today’s final rounds, the 10-year-old said, “I’m not really under any pressure. I’m just having a lot of fun.”
Frank Cahill, 14, of Denver, who goes on to the semifinals, says he feels “a little” nervousness, but added, “I didn’t expect to get this far.”
Emily Keaton, 13, of Pikeville, Ky., said she felt “a mix of emotions” and hopes her friends will tune in today to watch her progress. Casey Ellis, 11, of Amarillo, Texas, said she was disappointed she won’t advance, but was realistic: “It’s mostly the repeaters who come back.”
Sierra Kathleen Parker, 13, of Shelby, N.C., said she will be in the crowd watching her friends today. “Even though I didn’t make it all the way, it was a great opportunity.”
The competition, usually full of tension, had some light moments.
Some spellers greeted longtime bee pronouncer Jacques Bailly and tried to get him to agree with their sounding out of the often-obscure words. Amber Born, a 13-year-old from Marblehead, Mass., asked Bailly if he was “fairly certain” of her pronunciation of the movie-lover “cinephile” before nailing it. Sam Lowery, 12, of Charlestown, Mass., spelled “dystopia,” a hellish place, in the air with his index finger, while several others used the time-tested back of their placards to write out invisible words.
The crowd was treated to the idiosyncrasies of several spellers, as Kayla Lynn Corredera-Wells, 14, of Palmyra, Va., clapped along as she recited the letters to “serendipity,” a gift for finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for. Nickan Fayyazi, 12, of Woodland Hills, Calif., greeted Bailly with a spelled-out “H-I.” Dylan Bird, 13, of Pebble Beach, Calif., asked him, “’S’up?”
This year’s winner gets $30,000 in cash, a trophy, a $2,500 savings bond, a $5,000 scholarship, $2,600 in reference works from the Encyclopaedia Britannica and an online language course.