One Minnesota youngster spelled both of his words correctly in Thursday’s nationally televised semifinals of the 71st Scripps National Spelling Bee in suburban Washington, D.C., but that wasn’t enough to qualify him for the finals.
Maxwell Meyer, a seventh-grader at Minnetonka Middle School East, was not among the 10 finalists because he failed to earn enough points in the vocabulary testing portion of the competition.
Maxwell easily spelled his first word of the day, “colcha,” a wool-embroidered coverlet of Mexican origin. He came back later in the morning and greeted pronouncer Jacques Bailly with a “hello, again.”
With only a slight pause of contemplation, the 13-year-old correctly spelled “railleur,” one given to good-natured ridicule.
Another Minnesotan, Christine Farnberg, an eighth-grader at Holy Spirit School in Rochester, approached the microphone earlier Thursday but was tripped up by “Syrette,” a small, collapsible tube fitted with a hypodermic needle for injecting a single dose of a medicinal agent (such as morphine).
Farnberg, who made it to the national bee in 2013 and bowed out in the prelims, offered a spelling of “Siret.” With that came the dreaded ding of the bell signaling her departure.
The preliminary round Wednesday began with 283 spellers at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., and three kids from Minnesota were among those who fell by the wayside.
Thursday morning’s semis, shown live on ESPN, started with 49 youngsters and whittled the field down to 10 for Thursday night’s finals. For a second straight year, it was a shared title as Gokul Venkatachalam of Missouri and Vanya Shivashankar of Kansas were crowned co-champions live on ESPN. They each receive $35,000 cash, a $2,500 savings bond and reference library materials.
Minnesotans falling out during the prelims were Cade Klimek, 14, an eighth-grader at Chisholm High School; Briana Joseph, 11, a fifth-grader at St. John Vianney School in Fairmont; and Ammy Lin, 12, a seventh-grader at Forestview Middle School in Baxter.
The National Spelling Bee started in 1925 with nine contestants. Minnesota has had one national champion, Sean Conley of Shakopee, in 2001.
Within the U.S., all 50 states were represented this year, along with competitors from the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Department of Defense Schools in Europe; also, the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.