WASHINGTON — The field at the Scripps National Spelling Bee significantly shrank Wednesday, with the five Triangle-area students among those eliminated. After three rounds of preliminary competition that started with 281 students, just 42 students earned a spot in the semifinal bout Thursday.
Four Triangle spellers moved on from Wednesday’s morning contest to the afternoon round. Jesse Stephenson, an eighth-grader at Southside Christian School in Clayton, misspelled the word “Weimaraner,” the type of dog, in the morning round..
“It was a word that I had studied and I knew it, but … I was real nervous and so wasn’t able to get the right spelling,” he said. “Regardless that I lost, it’s a great experience to just be here and do it.”
Alexander Schembra, a fifth-grader at Lillington-Shawtown Elementary in Lillington, made it to the afternoon match, then misspelled the word “Beethovenian,” which means relating to composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
The other three Triangle spellers – Brian Werden, Ethan Wagner and Hunter Randolph – did not misspell words, but their cumulative scores over two days of testing were not high enough for them to make the semifinals.
Brian, a seventh-grader at Charles W. Stanford Middle School in Hillsborough, correctly spelled his words, “toboggan” and “labefaction,” in both rounds.
The magic first-round words for eighth-graders Ethan and Hunter were “segue” and “paparazzo,” respectively. Ethan attends St. Michael of the Archangel School in Cary, and Hunter attends SanLee Middle School in Sanford.
Both also correctly spelled their words in the next round, with Ethan fielding “tattersall” and Hunter getting “acetabulum” right.
Ethan considered the week a success. He wasn’t even focused on making semifinals.
“On the preliminaries test I did the best I could, and how it came out is how it came out,” Ethan said. “I spelled both my words right, and I’m happy about that. It was good.”
The five Triangle boys in the bee began the qualifying process last fall. Millions competed along the way for a spot in this week’s event, and the five represent a handful of the almost 300 students that beat the long odds.