OXON HILL, Md. — Nine spellers made it through the semifinal rounds Thursday of the Scripps National Spelling Bee and returned that night to the stage at a convention center outside Washington, D.C.
Claggett Middle School eighth-grader Sunny Levine, 13, of Medina, made it through round four by spelling the medication “bacitracin” correctly, but was tripped up in round five by “polos.” She spelled it “palas,” a headdress worn by women in ancient Greece.
The spellers who made it through the semifinal rounds nailed words derived from Greek, Latin, French, German, Hawaiian and Afrikaans. They got proper names and obscure medical terms.
Final results were not available at press time.
Lena Greenberg, a home-schooled 14-year-old from Philadelphia, became the last to make the finals when she spelled “cholecystitis,” an inflammation of the gallbladder. She said she didn’t know what the word meant but was able to piece it together. After spelling it right, she ran back to her chair, handed out high fives and buried her face in her hands.
“It means so much,” Greenberg said. “I can’t believe I got here! It doesn’t make sense. There were a lot of the words in the semifinals I didn’t know.”
Levine was among 41 spellers who heard the dreaded bell that signals an incorrect spelling. They included one of the favorites, 10-year-old Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kan. The younger sister of the 2009 champion had the only perfect score in the preliminary rounds.
Shivashankar was flummoxed by “pejerrey,” a small fish. She went with “perjere.”
“Thank you,” she said, and walked offstage with her head held high. She’ll have three more years to compete if she chooses.
Arvind Mahankali, 12, of Bayside Hills, N.Y., a finalist the last two years, made it three years in a row when he spelled “phrontistery.” A tennis player and aspiring physicist, he raised his arms in victory as he walked away from the microphone.
The AP contributed to this report.