NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland – Una VanWynsberghe of Van Wert, Ohio, correctly spelled both her words in the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Wednesday, but she failed to advance to the final rounds today.
Una, 13, spelled “regurgitant” in the morning round of oral spelling and “refulgence” in the afternoon round.
Results from a written spelling and vocabulary test administered Tuesday determined the 40 finalists from among the 188 children who got their words right Wednesday. A champion will emerge today after two more sessions of oral spelling and another written exam. The winner will receive more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.
Una had qualified for the national bee for the second straight year by winning The Journal Gazette Regional Spelling Bee presented by STAR Financial Bank in March.
She was among 291 competitors, ranging in age from 6 to 15, from the United States and U.S. territories, the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.
Una, who recently completed seventh grade at Lincolnview Junior High School in Van Wert County, is the daughter of corn and soybean farmers Dewey and Rachel VanWynsberghe.
On Wednesday morning, Una correctly spelled “regurgitant” in the first round of oral spelling to advance to the afternoon competition. She said later that she knew how to spell the word as soon as she heard it. Her mother was confident, too.
“Puke! Oh, it's puke! We've got this,” Rachel VanWynsberghe said she thought to herself about “regurgitant.”
Una asked pronouncer Jacques Bailly for the definition – “flowing or flowing back,” he said – and for him to use the word in a sentence and identify its part of speech before she calmly, but deliberately, assembled the right letters in their proper sequence.
Una did not make small talk with Bailly or ask for a lot of word clues, such as language of origin and alternative pronunciations, as many spellers had.
“I didn't want to stand up there any more, so I just quit asking questions,” Una said, admitting to a case of nerves when spelling onstage.
She sought a couple more hints about “refulgence,” which Bailly said is a Latin noun meaning “the quality or state of giving out bright light – brilliance.” Then she carefully selected the right letters.
“It wasn't really hard,” Una said later. She said she was “a little bit” less nervous on her second word.
More than a few spellers expressed their anxieties on stage.
“Please give me a word I know,” one speller pleaded with Bailly.
“I'm back, but probably not for long,” another speller said during the afternoon round. She promptly misspelled “paramountcy.”
Words spelled correctly Wednesday by the young competitors included “quidnunc,” “guayabera,” “gneiss,” “brevicaudate” and “tandoori.”
Spellers were eliminated for misfiring on “onerous,” “onomasticon,” “quokka,” “spessartine,” “carpal” and “rhubarb.”
Morning-round words came from a list that students could study, but afternoon-round words were taken from the Merriam-Webster Unabridged dictionary in an effort to weed out memorizers.
Each of the previous three bees ended in ties between two spellers.
Two spellers from Indiana advanced to the finals: Jashun Paluru, 12, of West Lafayette, and Nicholas Ivan, 13, of Carmel.
The youngest competitor, 6-year-old Edith Fuller of Tulsa, Oklahoma, correctly spelled her two words Wednesday but failed to make the cut for the finals based on her score on the earlier written test.