EDUCATION

41 advance to semi-finalist at Scripps National Spelling Bee

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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (AP) - Forty-one youngsters have advanced to the semifinals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The 41 youths had the highest scores after Wednesday's early rounds.

11-year-old Caleb Miller spells a word on his hand during the opening round of the 2011 Spelling Bee. (Photo: Associated Press)

The semifinals take place Thursday morning. The finals will be held Thursday night, broadcast in prime time for the sixth consecutive year.

The winner will receive more than $40,000 in cash and prizes. The top returning finishers from last year are still in the running. Joanna Ye is a 14-year-old eighth grader from Carlisle, Pa., who tied for fifth place last year.

Laura Newcombe, a 12-year-old eighth grader from Toronto, also tied for fifth in 2010. She is trying to become the first Canadian to win the bee.

For the most part, the second round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee ran like a well-oiled machine, with youngsters rattling off the letters to words like "usufructuary" and "febrifugal" without a hitch.

Then there was Skye Merriam, the rare speller who had the misfortune of hearing a word she didn't know - one more familiar to sore-muscled adults than bright and lively kids. The 11-year-old sixth grader from Driggs, Idaho, was given the pain reliever "ibuprofen" and guessed "ibuprofine."

She made a sad, slow walk after the round to find her parents, who offered hugs and comfort and managed to coax her into a halfhearted fist bump.

The oral rounds of the 84th edition of the bee began Wednesday morning, with 275 spellers ages 8 to 15 from across the United States and around the world competing. The scores were to be combined with Tuesday's written test to determine who advances to the semifinals Thursday morning.

The finals will be held Thursday night, broadcast in prime time for the sixth consecutive year. The winner receives more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.

All but 38 of the competitors to approach the microphone in the second round spelled their word correctly, many of them after asking the usual questions about definition, language of origin and pronunciation. Among the more amusing words: "harrumph" and "ballyhooed."

One of the most suspenseful moments was provided by Marcus Glenn Tecarro of Loves Park, Ill., who was clearly stumped by the word "ineluctable," an adjective that means something that's not to be avoided or escaped.

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