Forty-two contestants survived the preliminary rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, successfully spelling — and defining — words such as cynosure, barukhzy, grobian and even scrunchie to move on to Thursday’s semi-finals.
This group of semifinalists was whittled down from the nearly 300 hopefuls who began the competition Tuesday with a 45-minute written exam that required them to correctly spell 24 words and answer 26 multiple-choice vocabulary questions.
More than 280 of them moved on to Wednesday’s onstage bee at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor. They endured three rounds of spelling words including realschule, quebracho and euphemism.
Few attempted to spell the words outright. They have the option to ask for information including alternate pronunciations, part of speech, definition, sentence and language of origin. (One competitor even asked the host if he would draw her pictures of her second- and third-round words: entourage and cyathiform. The answer was a resounding “no” to both requests.)
“Could I get everything, please?” speller Donovan Rolle, an eighth- grader from the District, asked, eliciting laughter from his audience. With the information that his word was of Latin origin, with no alternate pronunciations and meaning “bearing berries,” Rolle correctly spelled bacciferous, moving through Round 2.
Other Washington area students also made it through the second round.
Jessie Ditton, a Virginia sixth-grader, correctly spelled Bolshevik to advance; this was after beating her brother in the district bee and her twin sister in regional.
Gabriela Rodriguez-Garcia, an eighth-grader from Maryland, moved on to Round 3 after correctly spelling jejunely.
But Rolle, Ditton, Rodriguez-Garcia and other Washington area spellers were all eliminated in Round 3. Only one speller from the region, 12-year-old Shayley Martin, a seventh-grader from Riner, Va., survived the round.
Martin is among the 42 contestants who will compete in Thursday’s semifinals. The oldest competitors are 14 years old and the youngest is just 8— Tara Singh, a third-grader from Kentucky who correctly spelled bobbejan in Round 2 and rapscallion in Round 3.
The remaining spellers took a second written vocabulary test Wednesday night, and those scores will be used in conjunction with Thursday’s spelling semifinals to help determine the finalists. Only 12 spellers will be allowed to advance to the finals, which will be broadcast at 8 p.m. Thursday on ESPN.