A trio of 13-year-olds from Los Angeles and Orange counties who had advanced to the quarterfinals of the 93rd Scripps National Spelling Bee were all eliminated Tuesday.
Baominh Le of Irvine and Sophia Lin, a classmate at The Pegasus School, both incorrectly answered their fifth-round word meaning questions to finish in a 16-way tie for 43rd place.
Irene Thomas of Tarzana misspelled her fourth-round word, clinquant, an adjective meaning glittering with gold or tinsel, and finished in a 17-way tie for 59th.
Baominh incorrectly answered the question, “What does it mean to circumambulate?” The correct answer is to walk around. Sophia incorrectly answered the question “Scansion is:” The correct answer is the analysis of a rhythmic structure.
Both began Tuesday’s competition by correctly spelling their fourth-round words. Baominh correctly spelled swelldom, a noun meaning people of rank and fashion, while Sophia correctly spelled Waldhorn, a noun for a musical horn.
“I feel honored to belong in the top 50 spellers nationwide,” Baominh told City News Service in an email interview. “The Pegasus School, the Orange County Department of Education, The Orange County Register and Scripps gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to compete in the spelling bee.
“I have watched the Scripps spelling bee on TV in past years, but I never imagined competing in the Scripps spelling bee. The Scripps spelling bee experience has been surreal.”
Baominh and Sophia qualified for the national bee by tying for first in the Orange County Spelling Bee, which is coordinated by the Orange County Department of Education in partnership with The Orange County Register.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee is administered on a not-for-profit basis by The E.W. Scripps Company, which owns television stations and cable and broadcast networks.
All three Southland students correctly spelled two words and correctly answered their word meaning questions as the bee began Saturday with a field of 209, with 75 advancing to the quarterfinals.
Baominh and Sophia both graduated Thursday from The Pegasus School, a private, pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school in Huntington Beach.
Irene graduated Friday from eighth grade at the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, a fourth- through 12th-grade magnet school in Tarzana. It kept its original name after moving to the site of the former Sequoia Junior High School in 1980.
This was the trio’s lone opportunity to compete in the national bee, which is limited to students who are in eighth grade or lower on Aug. 31 of the year preceding the competition.
The second round of each level of the competition — the preliminaries, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals — is a word meaning round, requiring the speller to orally select the correct multiple choice answer to a vocabulary question read by the pronouncer.
This new element of the competition is designed to challenge the spellers and further advance the bee’s focus on word knowledge and literacy.
Questions have been prepared by noted linguist and lexicographer Ben Zimmer, language columnist for The Wall Street Journal. The speller has 30 seconds to view the question and the three answer choices. The speller must answer correctly within the time limit to move on to the next round of competition.
The bee will resume June 27 with the semifinals. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, all competition through the semifinals will be held on a virtual basis.
The top 10-12 finalists will travel to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida for the finals, which will be held July 8.
No speller from Los Angeles or Orange counties has won the bee.