A young Minnesotan with spelling prowess in his veins got his first three words right Thursday on the final day of the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in suburban Washington but got tripped up on the next offering and fell just short of making the evening’s closing rounds.
Thomas York, 14, an eighth-grader from St. Francis of Assisi school in Rochester, was the only Minnesotan to advance from the written, spelling and vocabulary challenges. Five others were eliminated Wednesday.
Sporting a coral button-down shirt and plaid dress shorts on national television, York strode confidently to the microphone at center stage late Thursday morning and took less than a minute to spell “hesychast,” defined as a sect of Eastern Orthodox monastics.
He then was correct with his next two words: “cuneus” (object shaped like a wedge), and “sauger” (a small pike perch similar to the walleye). However, “Carrara” (white statuary marble) was his undoing. York spelled it “karara.”
At the close of the afternoon session, 15 spellers had won spots in the evening’s rounds that will determine a champion.
All 291 spellers this year got an opportunity to spell on stage Wednesday. Those who didn’t misspell a word were then at the mercy of their score on a written spelling and vocabulary test that they took on Tuesday.
The early rounds of the finals were telecast on ESPN2 starting Thursday morning, with the closing rounds shifting in the evening to the more widely watched ESPN.
York plays saxophone, piano and guitar. He also plays hockey, football and baseball. He plans to be a doctor, engineer or professional athlete when he is older.
Michael York, Thomas’ father, advanced to the national bee in 1982 from Saginaw Valley, Mich.
The Minnesotans who were eliminated Wednesday were eighth-grader Rose Han, of Staples; seventh-grader Briana Joseph, of Fairmont; seventh-grader Ainsley Boucher, of Crookston; seventh-grader Will Rooke, of Deephaven; and eighth-grader Meryl Tigenoah, of Baxter.
Last year’s longest-lasting Minnesotan was Max Meyer, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Minnetonka Middle School East. He breezed through his first three words on the final day before the fourth word (dulia) tripped him up.
The National Spelling Bee started in 1925 with nine contestants. Minnesota has had one national champion, Sean Conley of Shakopee, in 2001.