High fives, dejection as 11 advance to U.S. spelling bee finals

Thu May 30, 2013 7:21pm EDT
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By Ian Simpson

OXON HILL, Maryland (Reuters) - Fist pumps, high fives and leaps in the air mingled with dejection and jitters as the last 42 young contestants in the United States' Scripps National Spelling Bee went through the semifinal round on Thursday.

They cringed when the simple toll of a bell from the judges signaled a misspelling and elimination from the tournament. Eleven spellers made it into the finals after dodging such words as "sciapodous," or having very large feet, "minnelied," a love song, and "telmatology," the study of wetlands.

Finalist Amber Born, 14, of Marblehead, Massachusetts, put her name placard to good use after pleading with pronouncer Jacques Bailly, "Please give me something I know."

Born, a home schooled eighth-grader who wants to be a stand-up comedian, got "malacophilous," a word for pollination by snails. She hesitated, hid her face behind her placard, then held it up to write on it with a finger, and leapt with triumph when she got it right.

"I was trying to block out everything" with the placard. "It's easier to concentrate when you're not looking at a lot of people and cameras," she told Reuters. "I'm in the finals. I don't care what happens now."

Some contestants nervously put fingertips to ears as they hoped for words they knew and spelled. Given "cyanope," Caleb Miller, a 13-year-old home-schooled eighth-grader from Calhoun, Louisiana, asked Bailly, "Does this come from the Greek word meaning 'eye'?" Told that it did, he said, "Thank goodness."

The clue was not enough, and Miller was eliminated. "Oh, you've got to be kidding me," he exclaimed when given the correct spelling for the word for someone with fair hair and brown eyes.

The finals run from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET and are scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN.   Continued...

Ansun Sujoe, of Fort Worth, spells a word correctly behind the winner's trophy during the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor in Maryland, May 29, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing