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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.-- Only 42 semifinalists will go before a nationally televised audience for the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee Thursday after being winnowed from 281 regional winners Wednesday.
They include spellers from China and Italy, several who have made the semis in previous years, and three who had perfect scores on the preliminary computer-based spelling and vocabulary test that accounted for most of the points earned.
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Five-year repeaters Rachael Cundey of Evans, Ga., and Emily Keaton of Pikeville, Ky., are among those vying for the $30,000 first-place cash prize and trophy.
Arvind Mahankali of New York 13, competing for the fourth year after a third-place finish last year, and Vanya Shivashankar, 11, of Olathe, Kan., returning for a third year, are being talked about as real contenders.
Fourth-year repeater Grace Remmer of St. Augustine, Fla., got a perfect score on the written test this year, and Gokul Venkatachalam of Chesterfield, Mo., made the semis for the second time.
Katharine Wang from Beijing and Anuk Dayaprema of Vincenza, Italy, perhaps came farthest to compete in the Bee, which has announced tentative plans to expand internationally.
Bee organizers first announced 41 semifinalists about 5 p.m. Wednesday, but after a review of Tuesday's results they revised the number right at 7 p.m., just as spellers were about to take a second computer-based test, the first part of the semis.
Denver speller Himanvi Kopuri, 12, said she missed four questions on the preliminary written test and feared she wouldn't make the cut, but did.
"I was like, 'Oh, my God, I got four wrong ... I might not make it,'" she said after leaving the stage in fur boots and sporting a silver semifinalist's medallion, a new memento given by the Bee this year.
Her mother, Jyosthna Boyapati, said Himanvi intentionally missed a word in last year's local spelling bee because she didn't feel prepared for the national limelight.
Elizabeth Dang of Cordova, Tenn., made it to the third round with the correct spelling of "boudoir," a bedroom, and with "emanant," meaning to flow outward, in her final appearance on stage.
"I was happy, but I was outside pacing," said Elizabeth's father, Paul Dang. "I paced when she was born, and I pace when she's in the Spelling Bee. I'm going to pace again when she gets married."
Elizabeth said she asked for the definition and other available information because "I didn't want to go too fast and slip up." She acknowledged another reason: it gave her more face time with the cameras.
Some of the spellers sought as much time in the limelight as possible, asking for languages of origin, parts of speech, and to have the word used in a sentence. Others jumped right in, spelling without prompts of any kind. Spellers knew "facetious," "commensurate" and "Fahrenheit" without aid, while others learned that a "croesus" is a word of Lydian origin for a very rich man, "fantoccini" are puppets on strings and a "rapscallion" is a scoundrel.
Unique, so far, among the publicity-seekers was 13-year-old Katie Danis' sung the spelling of her word. The Gastonia, N.C., seventh-grader belted out a musical "s-t-a-b-i-l-i-t-e-r," meaning a device for measuring stability.
Speller Iram Kingson, 14, of Williamstown, Ohio, got a real surprise when she was offered "realschule," a European secondary school not used to prepare students for university, because she'd gotten the same word two years ago. The Bee's executive director, Paige Kimble, said the 1,100 word list used in the preliminaries have been used in previous bees and said the repeated word was "completely coincidental." In any case, Iram nailed it.
Some words appeared to refer in some way to the process underway in the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center's huge ballroom: repertoire (a well-rehearsed performance), ing�nue (a young actress), "temerarious" (rashly daring) but also beleaguer, poignant, narcissistic and hierarchy, crescendo and juggernaut.
AT A GLANCE:
What: Scripps National Spelling Bee semifinals and finals
Where: Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, National Harbor, Md.
Who: Administered on a not-for-profit basis by The E.W. Scripps Co. of Cincinnati and local spelling bee sponsors in the United States, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Department of Defense Schools in Europe; also, the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.
Semifinals: Thursday, 2-5 p.m. EDT. Live on ESPN2.
Championship Finals: Thursday, 8-10 p.m. EDT. Live on ESPN.
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