WASHINGTON — Ohio’s best young spellers went into today’s semi-finals of the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee representing 10 percent of the field of 50. After their first tries this morning, all five Ohioans remain.
It’s still not over. The remaining semi-finalists are likely to get at least one more shot in early afternoon rounds, and it could easily be with harder words, as the contest’s sponsors try to narrow the field to 10 to 15 for tonight’s finals. The finals will be carried live at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
Thirteen-year-old Sunny Levine of Medina correctly spelled “bacitracin” this morning.
“It’s like an antibiotic cream, isn’t it?” she asked the pronouncer, Jacques Bailly. Told yes, she said, “Sweet!”
Sunny is an eighth-grader at Claggett Middle School, and this is her third consecutive year in the national bee.
A somewhat less excited but deeply skilled speller from Mentor, Vishnu Nistala, 12, remains in the bee after correctly spelling “cataphract” (a suit of armor for the whole body) this morning. Vishnu, an eighth-grader at Mentor Shore Middle School, first asked for the word’s definition and language of origin, then asked Bailly to repeat it in a sentence.
Nicholas Rushlow, 14, of Pickerington, remains after nailing “monocotyledon” (a class of flowering plants). Nicholas has been considered a favorite to make the finals because of his considerable spelling bee practice; this is his fifth time in the national Scripps bee.
Dharani Kotekal of Wintersville is still in the bee after getting the spelling of “victorine” (a full shoulder cape with long ends) right this morning.
And Max L. Lee of Canfield is still in, having correctly spelled “enthymeme” (a logical argument in which the premise is implicit).
Each contestant qualified for the 85th annual bee after winning locally. The national contest began Tuesday with 278 contestants. They were awarded points for a computerized spelling test, then competed Wednesday in two rounds of live spelling on the stage at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in suburban Maryland.
The spelling bee is sponsored by the E.W. Scripps Co., which owns newspapers and television stations. Individual spellers are sponsored by local media or education organizations near their homes. Sunny, for example, is sponsored by the Akron Beacon Journal, and Vishnu by the News-Herald, of Willoughby.
The Plain Dealer sponsored Isabella Marie Nilsson, 13, of Cleveland Heights. Isabella, like a majority of contestants including Veto Lopez, 13, of Avon, was eliminated in preliminary rounds Wednesday. Like most others, Isabella planned to stick around with her family to cheer those who made the semi-finals and finals.
Prizes for the national winner include $30,000, a $2,500 savings bond, a $5,000 scholarship, and reference works from Merriam-Webster and Encyclopaedia Britannica.