- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 31, 2012

Update: 1:17 p.m. The semifinal of the 85th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee is proving to be a tough one, as 17 spellers have been eliminated after only one-and-a-half rounds.

Tricky words such as “quinquennalia,” “oecus,” and “aeristic” tripped up the spellers, often — and heartbreakingly — by only one letter.

As her shoulders slumped after hearing the dreaded ding of the judge’s bell, familiar face on the spelling stage Grace Remmer of St. Augustine, Fla. said, “Thank you, everyone” before heading to her mother’s side.

Despite the growing tension as the competition progresses, some spellers kept their chins up, joking with the judges.

After Vanya Shivashankar, 10, of Olathe, Kan., found out her word did not have a language of origin, she laughed, “Well, that helps!”

Jae Canetti of Reston, the last remaining area speller, fist-bumped the air when he correctly spelled “habendum.”

The semifinal round continues through the spellers until between 10 and 15 spellers are left for the final champion round.

 

10:48 a.m. The challenging words of the 85th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee could give anyone c-e-p-h-a-l-a-l-g-i-a, but Kevin Lazenby handled the first word in the semifinal round with aplomb.

Kevin, 13, of Opeika, Ala. correctly spelled the word, a slightly fancier way to say headache, shortly after 10 a.m. on Thursday, during Round 4 of the national spelling bee.

The young man was joined by 49 of his fellow spellers from across the country who beat out 228 other “athletes of the English language” to make it to the semifinal round.

“It’s an honor to be named to the semifinals,” said Paige Kimbel, the director of the bee and herself the 1981 national champion. “It’s an honor — and cool of course — to spell on ESPN.”

Two contestants were eliminated before the fourth round was complete. Apolonia Gardner, 14, of Imperial, Ca., misspelled “phalarope,” and Marlene Santora from North Riverside, Ill., left out a second “d” in “freddo.”

The bee is being held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center.

Waiting for the round to start, some spellers seemed at ease on the brightly lit stage, whispering and laughing with their neighbors or waving to proud parents in the audience. Others, perhaps finding themselves for the first time in the semifinals, or reviewing words in their head, kept silent and still.

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