- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2006

Twelve-year-old Samir Patel, runner-up in last year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee, sailed through three rounds yesterday but then lost his chance at the national title.

After eight rounds, 13 spellers were to return last night to compete for the championship and thousands of dollars during a nationally televised, prime-time final.

Asked to spell “eremacausis,” Samir, who is home-schooled in Colleyville, Texas, seemed disappointed when the judges couldn’t produce answers to his questions about the word’s root.

He asked to hear the definition several times.

He put his hands on his hips and sighed into the microphone.

He buried his face in his hands.

He claimed a minute of “bonus time,” to which spellers are entitled just once during the competition.

He took a stab at spelling, but it came out wrong: “aeromocausis.”

The audience erupted with loud sighs and applause as he left the stage.

The seventh round began with 21 spellers, including Samir. Among the 13 advancing to the next round were masters of words such as boraginaceous, anacoluthon and wapiti.

Eight spellers stumbled on gigerium, empyreumatic, mirliton and other words.

The pace of the competition, held in the basement ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Washington on H Street, seemed slowed by the need to accommodate commercial breaks.

“We’re out for another two-minute commercial break,” or “We’re out for about a minute and a half,” bee director Paige Kimble announced frequently. The audience chuckled, the competition paused, and the spellers and others in the room used the opportunity to stretch their legs.

Outside the hotel, an Internet sports betting company was taking bets on the bee, including whether the winner would wear glasses and whether the final word would have an “e” in it.

Simon Noble, chief executive officer of PinnacleSports.com, said his company had received about $70,000 in bets on seven propositions about the bee as of noon yesterday.

The competition began with 274 fourth- through eighth-graders.

Spellers made it to the finals by winning contests in the 50 states, as well as in American Samoa, the Bahamas, Canada, Europe, Guam, Jamaica, New Zealand, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Sixty-six contestants were making repeat appearances, including two eighth-graders competing for the fifth and final time. Only one, Katharine Close of New Jersey, made it to the finals.

ESPN has broadcast the second day of the bee since 1994, but this year, in a nod to the popularity of “reality TV,” the championship rounds were moved to ABC for a live, prime-time broadcast before a larger audience.

The winner goes home with more than $42,000 in cash and prizes.

The Louisville Courier-Journal started the bee in 1925. The E.W. Scripps Co., a media conglomerate, assumed sponsorship in 1941.


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