Rolesville eighth-grader and power-speller Michael Bono aced “paradigm” in the preliminary rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee last week. He spelled “prosciutto” without a pause.
It was this year’s beefed-up computer test, with its “pogonotomy,” “ejido” and “Thucydidean,” that knocked Michael’s score out of the running for semi-finalist.
Still, all those hours of Latin class paid off when “paradigm” echoed across the auditorium as his first word.
“It’s on like page three of my Latin textbook, so I pictured the word in the textbook and spelled it that way,” Michael said in a video from the conference.
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Michael, 13, returns to Thales Academy Junior High in Wake Forest with a $100 gift card and a computerized edition of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. The Triangle’s other bee competitors, Zachary Bryson Jacobs of Clayton and Ned Swansey of Durham, were also disqualified before the semi-finals.
This year’s bee saw 278 students from across the country compete for 50 slots in the finals in Washington, D.C. Students must be younger than 16 and no higher than eighth grade in school.
The preliminary phases of the competition are two words spelled onstage and a 50-word computer test. On last year’s test, spellers who got more than two wrong were disqualified from the semi-finals. With this year’s tougher test, students could miss up to eight words and still advance.
This was Michael’s first shot at the contest after missing his school’s qualifier spelling bee last year.
His technique onstage was much the same as in his Thales Academy classroom during “Stump Michael” days for the past month. He stood motionless in a bright yellow polo shirt, left thumb hooked into the pocket of his khakis, eyes cast down as he carefully spelled each word. But this time, there was a microphone that projected each careful letter to a live audience on ESPN3.com.
With the national bee and its hours of preparation out of the way, Michael is free to return to his other activities, from serving as student body president to receiving his black belt in tae kwon do – plus soccer practice, band practice and preparations for high school next year.
Even without his daily study, coaching and weekly spelling showdowns, he won’t be bored.