NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. - The youngest speller in Scripps National Spelling Bee history was tripped up in the onstage rounds and won't progress to the semifinals on Thursday.
Acknowledging the popularity of Lori Anne Madison, the home-schooled 6-year-old from Woodbridge, Va., Bee Director Paige P. Kimble asked the audience for a round of applause for the pint-size speller before announcing the 50 semifinalists.
By far the crowd-pleaser of the early preliminary rounds, Lori Anne correctly spelled "dirigible," a steerable airship, in the second round, but misspelled "ingluvies," or crop of a bird or insect, in the third round. She began her spelling with an "e." That knocked her out of contention in the 85th annual Bee, being held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.
Throughout the second and third rounds of the event Wednesday, spellers misspelled a cascade of words, including: "Segue," the verbal movement to another topic. "Dragoon," to force with violence. "Dossier," a file or report. "Sassafras," a type of tea. And the repeat offender "recidivist."
But they nailed a host of gems, such as: "Repartee," a clever retort. "Basmati," a type of rice. "Beetewk," a Russian draft horse. "Theomachy," a battle between the gods. And"Kohlrabi," a kind of cabbage.
Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kan., whose sister Kavya won the Bee in 2009, was the only perfect scorer on the written test Tuesday, and got both of her onstage words right. Asked about expectations for Thursday's final rounds, the 10-year-old said, "I'm not really under any pressure. I'm just having a lot of fun."
Frank Cahill, 14, of Denver, who goes on to the semifinals, says he feels "a little" nervousness, but added, "I didn't expect to get this far."
Emily Keaton, 13, of Pikeville, Ky., said she felt "a mix of emotions" and hopes her friends will tune in on Thursday to watch her progress. Casey Ellis, 11, of Amarillo, Texas, said she was disappointed she won't advance, but was realistic: "It's mostly the repeaters who come back."
Sierra Kathleen Parker, 13, of Shelby, N.C., said she will be in the crowd watching her friends Thursday. "Even though I didn't make it all the way, it was a great opportunity."
The competition, usually full of tension, had some light moments.
Some spellers greeted longtime Bee pronouncer Jacques Bailly and tried to get him to agree with their sounding out of the often-obscure words. Amber Born, a 13-year-old from Marblehead, Mass., asked Bailly if he was "fairly certain" of her pronunciation of the movie-lover "cinephile," before nailing it. Sam Lowery, 12, of Charlestown, Mass., spelled "dystopia," a hellish place, in the air with his index finger, while several others used the time-tested back of their placards to write out invisible words.
The crowd was treated to the idiosyncrasies of several spellers, as Kayla Lynn Corredera-Wells, 14, of Palmyra, Va., clapped along as she recited the letters to "serendipity," a gift for finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for. Nickan Fayyazi, 12, of Woodland Hills, Calif., greeted Bailly with a spelled-out "H-I." Dylan Bird, 13, of Pebble Beach, Calif., asked him, "'S'up?"
When speller Jack Pasche, 13, of Suttons Bay, Mich., was stumped by "idiosyncratically," he resorted to answering by reciting letters and numbers that Bee officials recorded as "ioqrsz34fivrq." The nonsensical spelling was ruled incorrect, but Pasche's attempt was hailed by cheers and applause from the crowd.
In a nod to the increasing globalization of the Bee -- Scripps announced intentions Tuesday night to form an international competition -- the crowd cheered for Philemon Awan of Accra, Ghana, on his 12th birthday Wednesday. He went on to spell "dynamogenesis," stimulation of the sense organs, correctly.
Some words seemed to evoke the sensations the spellers themselves were experiencing, such as "fraught," "quixote," "wearisome," "irrepressible" and "temerity." Katherine Wang, 10, of Beijing, China, showed a certain temerity when she drew "damoclean," meaning involving imminent danger, and asked Bailly, "Could you tell me how to spell that, please?"
The dry-witted Bailly responded, "Maybe later," but didn't need to help her. Katherine got it right.
Asked about the perception that the national contest has gotten much more difficult in recent years, Bee Director Kimble, the 1981 champion, said, "Difficulty varies from one person to the next based on experiences and where you've been and other interests."
"Nowadays, the Bee goes to great lengths to try to even out the difficulty of the word lists," she said.
Seen after the Bee holding hands with friends, Lori Anne was on her way to a restaurant for a hamburger, not visibly shaken by not making the semis.
As she told a Scripps reporter last week: "I'm 6, I can come back and compete a lot of times."