OXON HILL, Maryland (Reuters) - One of 42 remaining young contestants who coped with nerves and words like “stabilimeter” and “jicama” will on Thursday be named champion of the United States’ Scripps National Spelling Bee.
The hopefuls were winnowed from 281 contestants aged 8 to 14 from across the United States and other countries. They advanced after two rounds of onstage spelling and, for the first time since the contest started in 1927, a computerized test that included vocabulary questions.
Organizers said the vocabulary quiz was part of the Bee’s commitment to deepening knowledge of the English language.
The semifinalists took another computerized test on Wednesday evening, and on Thursday they will spell onstage from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. ET (1800-2100 GMT). The finals, which organizers said could have a dozen contestants, run from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (2400-02000 GMT).
The semifinalists include three eighth graders with perfect scores from the first computerized test: Pranav Sivakumar, 13, of Tower Lakes, Illinois; Grace Remmer, 14, from St. Augustine, Florida; and Arvind Mahankali, 13, of Bayside Hills, New York, who was last year’s third-place finisher.
Two contestants whose siblings have won the national title - Vanya Shivashankar, 11, of Olathe, Kansas, and Ashwin Veeramani, 13, of Cleveland - also advanced to the semifinals.
During the spelling rounds, some contestants were visibly nervous before advancing to the microphone in the packed auditorium. At least one left the stage nearly in tears after misspelling a word.
The contestants hailed from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and Defense Department schools around the world. Some spellers came from the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.
The Bee at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center outside Washington, D.C., is being broadcast by ESPN. The champion receives $30,000, a trophy and other prizes. (Editing by Scott Malone)