- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2007

The semifinal rounds yesterday of the 80th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee were too tough for local spellers.

The two remaining Maryland spellers were eliminated back-to-back in the sixth round.

Selena Roper, 13, of Annapolis, was eliminated yesterday on the word “sejant,” which relates to the sitting posture of an animal.

“I get $400,” Selena said, laughing, after she left the stage. “That’s good enough for me.”

She delighted the packed crowd Wednesday at the Grand Hyatt Washington when she made a reference to the TV show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” by asking for a “lifeline” while spelling the word “oleic.”

Selena said during a break she planned the joke with fellow speller Lucy Weber, 14, of Weybridge, Vt., who agreed to make a funny face when she heard her next word.

“You wouldn’t believe how tense it is up there,” Selena said. “We wanted to do something to break the tension.”

Her mother, Janice Roper-Graham, said she was proud of her daughter and enjoyed the competition.

“It’s nervous, but it’s been a fun nervous,” she said. “Of course, I’d like her to be the big-time champion, but there was no pressure.”

After Selena’s miss, 14-year-old Izaak Baker of Prince William, stumbled on “makimono”, which is a Japanese horizontal scroll containing text or a captioned painting.

Izaak said he confused his word with kakemono, another type of scroll, and did not realize he had made a mistake until he heard the judge ring the bell for an incorrect spelling.

“I’m relieved now that I can sit back and watch it,” he said. “I got the luck. I just threw it away.”

Also in the sixth round, Abhinav Venkat, 13, of Haymarket, Va., was eliminated on the word “ornithichnite”, which is a fossilized footprint of a bird.

Abhinav said he had heard the word before and was disappointed about misspelling it, but would try to make the bee again next year.

His father, Ramesh Venkat, was one of many beaming parents — but one of seemingly few who said they were not nervous for their children.

“He’s a cool guy,” Ramesh said about Abhinav. “I think coming here already is a great accomplishment.”

Crowd favorite and the bee’s only fifth-year competitor, 13-year-old Samir Patel, went out surprisingly early in the fifth round, failing to make the top 30.

He misspelled “clevis,” a U-shaped metal piece used as a fastening device. His mistake elicited a loud gasp from the audience, then a standing ovation.

Samir, of Colleyville, Texas, was met by a small group of young fans after leaving the stage, including one who called him “the best speller in the world.”

“I just outsmarted myself,” said a teary-eyed Samir, adding his gut told him the correct spelling, but he second-guessed himself.

Olivia Lasche, 12, of the District, was eliminated in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Last night’s finalists competed for nearly $50,000 in prizes, including $20,000 in cash, a $5,000 scholarship and reference books from Encyclopedia Britannica worth $3,800. This year’s competition was the largest in its history, starting with 286 spellers.

The 15 finalists competed last night on ABC-TV.

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