Word nerds appeal for mercy, breathe deep before U.S. Spelling Bee finals

Thu May 26, 2016 3:42pm EDT
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By Ian Simpson

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (Reuters) - Young finalists in the Scripps National Spelling Bee turned to occasional deep breathing, writing on their hands and appeals for mercy on Thursday as they competed to make the championships.

Ten spellers out of 45 finalists advanced to the title round. It will be televised by cable channel ESPN at 8 p.m. ET and the winner will take home $40,000 in cash and other prizes.

"I know I'm not from Colorado, but can you cut me some slack?" Mitchell Robson, 14, an eighth-grader from Marblehead, Massachusetts, who made the title round, asked pronouncer Jacques Bailly, the 1980 Bee winner from Colorado.

"I'll send you some good thoughts," Bailly replied before Mitchell nailed "nagelfluh," an Alpine geological formation.

Many of the youthful finalists in the Bee, a U.S. institution since its start in 1925, breathed nervously, chewed their lips, rolled their eyes or stared at the ceiling as they wrestled with such words as "succussatory," an adjective for violent shaking, and "glaucothoe," a young crab.

"Yikes!" said Andrew France, 14, an eighth-grader from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, when Bailly gave him "pareiasaur," a type of dinosaur. He scratched his left ear, looked around and then aced it, drawing applause from the ballroom audience.

Many scribbled with a fingertip on their hands or on the back of their name tags as a brain boost.

The championship finalists include two from the 2015 round. Sneehaa Ganesh Kumar, 13, an eighth-grader from Folsom, California, finished fourth last year, and Sylvie Lamontagne, 13, an eighth-grader from Lakewood, Colorado, tied for ninth.   Continued...

Emily Sun of Boston, MA, shows her relief after a correct spelling during a preliminary round at the 89th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee at National Harbor in Maryland, U.S., May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque