Follow along as Michael S. Rosenwald, live from the ballroom, blogs the tension-fraught semifinals and finals of the National Spelling Bee.

View Photo Gallery: Students from across the country are taking part in the event at the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center at National Harbor.

9:24 p.m. And the winner is...

Snigdha Nandipati of San Diego with guetapens. (Use it tomorrow in a sentence: It means ambush.)

She beat out Stuti Mishra of Orlando, who wasn’t able to come up with schwarmerei.

Singdha was swarmed by her family on stage, including her grandparents who flew in from India. In a quick interview with ESPN she indicated she was pretty confident she would get the word right.

“I knew it,” she said. “I’d seen it before.”

She said there were a few words she didn’t know during the competition — not her words, those belonging to other children. She obviously knew all her words all the way through, and they included:







And the winning word: guetapens

Asked what she was going to do with the $30,000 prize, the winner had another right answer: “Maybe save it for college.”

9:24 p.m. Seventh out, 2 left

He was the favorite to win, but now he’s gone. Arvind Mahankali from New York City wasn’t able to come up with schwannoma — a kind of tumor. He was third last year and he’s third again this year. He has one year of eligibility left, okay Arvind fans? He will be back.

We are down to a spelling duel between Snigdha Nandipati and Stuti Mishra. They are both 14 and in eighth grade.

9:13 p.m. Fifth and sixth out, 3 left

Nicholas Rushlow from Lancaster, Ohio: This was his fifth and final competition. He didn’t get vetiver. And this hit me hard: Lena Greenberg is also out. She couldn’t get geistlich. They both got standing ovations, though. I feel especially bad for Lena’s mom, who had to cover her eyes in the audience every time her daughter came to the mic.

9:08 p.m. Fourth out, 5 left

Gifton Wright from Jamaica, a real crowd pleaser who answered ”yes, sir” to the judges, didn’t get ericeticolous. But he did get a standing ovation. Very heartfelt moment.

8:59 p.m. Spelling Bee Factoid #2

You might be wondering why there is a time limit to answer.

If not, humor me.

The Bee program says: “Before there was a time limit, a few spellers liked to hang out at the microphone -- often in silence -- for 5-10 minutes. It was exhausting and unnerving for other spellers as well as the audience.”

8:40 p.m. Third out, 6 left

Is it porwiggle or porwigle? It’s porwigle. Frank Cahill’s extra G will be likely regretted for a long time. We’re moving pretty fast now.

8:35 p.m. Oh, Lena

Lena Greenberg from Philadelphia is going to give me a panic attack. She is so wonderfully dramatic, and when she repeats the word back or asks any questions she sounds as if she is scared someone is going to push her off a very tall slide. When she gets the word right — she just got otosteon — she runs off to her seat. Delightful.

8:30 p.m. Arvind making progress

Arvind Mahankali, a crowd favorite from New York City, was dead on with maieutic. He finished third last year and is a favorite to win. He has declared that if he wins he will scream so loud that a volcano will erupt. Volcano watchers: keep an eye out!

8:24 p.m. Second out, 7 left

The first finalist from New Hampshire — the wonderfully quirky Emma Ciereszynski — was not able to handle ridotto, which really smart people use in a sentence when they went to refer to a public ball. So long, Emma. You were fun.


8:21 p.m. First out, 8 left

It is Jordan Hoffman from Kansas City. She couldn’t nail canities. I couldn’t either.

8:15p.m. The man with the words

They call him Dr. Bailly.

“Hello, Dr. Bailly.”

“Good evening, Dr. Bailly.”

“So we meet again, Dr. Bailly.”

He is Jacques A. Bailly, and he is the man with the words.

Who is the good doctor? He is a classics professor at the University of Vermont. His bio on the school’s web site says: “I regularly teach Greek and Latin at all levels as well as courses on Plato, Aristotle, and etymology.”

He won the National Spelling Bee in 1980. He is very polite, has a dry sense of humor, and he appears to know how to spell every word in the universe, just like Alex Trebek seems to know every fact in the universe.

The first word was psammon and Snigdha Nandipati from San Diego nailed it.

8:11p.m. First word

The first word was psammon and Snigdha Nandipati from San Diego nailed it.

7:55 p.m. Finals just minutes away!

Here are your nine finalists, with their age and a neat fact about each from their official Bee biography. They are the kind of facts that make you wonder what you could have been doing as a teenager instead of wasting time:

Snigdha Nandipati, 14: “Snigdha enjoys reading random facts in encyclopedias, particularly those topics pertaining to science or history. In her spare time, she also likes to read whodunits and adventures, and she collects unique coins from around the world.”

Frank Cahill, 14: “Frank participates in theatre and has played the lead roles in Dracula and Oliver Twist. He is a defenseman on the Parker Hawks Lacrosse team and a member of the varsity basketball team at his school.”

Stuti Mishra 14: “She is interested in computer art and design, and she is currently learning computer programming. Stuti also likes to swim.

Gifton Wright, 14: “At school (in Jamaica), Gifton is deputy head boy, is on the Quiz team, and participates in the Chess and Math clubs.”

Jordan Hoffman, 14: “This past fall, she wrote an a cappella choral composition, which the Lee’s Summit Youth Chorale performed throughout the year.”

Emma Ciereszynski, 14: “She was reading proficiently at age two, and today her favorite novel is House of Leaves.”

Arvind Mahankali, 12: “He can sing “The Elements” song by Tom Lehrer. He would like to become a physicist like his role model, Albert Einstein.”

Nicholas Rushlow, 14: “Nicholas is also an avid LEGO collector. He likes to use his spelling skills playing Scrabble, and he’s good at chess.”

Lena Greenberg, 14: “former executive editor of YALDAH, a national magazine for Jewish girls, as well as the layout editor for her synagogue’s 16-20 page monthly newsletter.”

2:08 p.m. Semifinals wrap up

And now we are left with nine finalists moving on to the final round. Our local Washington-area stars — Jack Nolan from Columbia, Maryland and Jae Canetti from Reston, Virginia — did not make the final cut. The final list of spelling stars:

Snigdha Nandipati

Frank Cahill

Stuti Mishra

Gifton Wright

Jordan Hoffman

Emma Ciereszynski

Arvind Mahankali

Nicholas Rushlow

Lena Greenberg

The finals start at 8 p.m., and I’ll be live blogging again. Study up.

1:27 p.m. Just go for it

Dr. Bailly, the man with the words, said the word: “allothogenic.”

Vismaya Kharkar, a 7th-grader from Utah, replied: “What?”

Dr. Bailey repeated it.

Vismaya: “Oh, okay. Ummmm.”

And then she went for it. And nailed it.

1:08 p.m. Groans from the audience

ESPN seems to be going to a commercial break every 13 seconds, which isn’t siting well with the audience. (Well, it’s not exactly that fast, but it feels that way.) I have no problem with news outlets filling up their bank accounts but it certainly does hurt the flow of the competition.

12:47 p.m. A quick stat

30 spellers are left:18 girls, 12 boys.

12:23 p.m. Things the ESPN announcers say to their audience

“We’ve seen him grow up here on this stage.”

“This will set off alarm bells.”

“That was a stinker of a word.”

“Tough break.”

“It’s all about the first part of this word.”

“Should be a slam dunk for him now.”

11:55 a.m. Stumbles, stumbles

They’ve been dropping like flies the last half hour or so. Spellers heard the bell for flubbing these words:






Some 41 spellers remain.

11:44 a.m. Spelling Bee Factoid #2

Why are there so many foreign words? The Bee guide says: “Most words in the English language are words we borrowed from other languages. We borrowed them, used them and now call them our own.” Now you know.

11:28 a.m. Lori Anne speaks

My colleague Jeremy Borden covered a rather unusual news conference this morning. The speaker: A 6-year-old. Lori Anne Madison has been the bee’s star this week, captivating the world. She was eliminated yesterday, but she held court with the press anyway. Asked whether she was a superstar, Lori Anne had the right answer: “Yes.” Read more here.

11:15 a.m. The kids are funny

When Emma Ciereszynski heard her word was caryatid she said, “Oh yay.” I thought she was joking, as in in “Oh no,” but according to the ESPN broadcasters caryatid is apparently a word that shows up on a lot of spelling bee practice lists. She must have known the word as soon as it came out of the judge’s mouth. So not only are the kids funny, but they are charmingly confident about their sport.

10:40 a.m. Hugs, smiles

As a father of two young kids I find it crushing when the bell goes off. The parents of the bell-rung children always rush up with hugs and encouragement as the bell-rung child comes off the stage. Marlene Santora of Chicago just felt that love after messing up freddo.

10:33 a.m. On a roll

The last ten words have been spelled correctly. The words include coulisse and cicatrize.Never heard of them? Me neither.

10:23 a.m. Spelling Bee Factoid #1

Where do they get all these words? The Bee guide says the Bee officials find them “in the course of going about their lives, reading books and traveling.” They then confirm the words in the dictionary. I wonder where they picked up phalarope. It’s a kind of shorebird.

10:08 a.m. First out

Phalarope just tripped up Apolonia Gardner from El Centro, Calif. She spelled the word on her hand several times. She repeated the word several times. But by the sound of her voice — and hesitancy of her hand-spelling — it was pretty clear a bell would ring. And it did. Gone.

9:54 a.m. Ready!

The room suddenly got quiet. The lights are out. The children are on stage. The parents sitting behind me are (I assume) nervous.

9:20 a.m. Let the mic check begin

Just arrived in the Maryland Ballroom at the Gaylord National Convention center for the semifinal and final rounds of the National Spelling Bee.

No spelling yet, but lots of mic checks.

“Check, check. One two. Hey hey. This is the spelling microphone.”

I’m ready. The semis get underway around 10 a.m. Stay tuned here.