“No Jokes”: The initial rounds of the National Spelling Bee are getting tough

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) – One writer ran off the stage in the middle of her time at the microphone, saying she needed to pee. Another tried to return to her place after correctly spelling her first word, only to be reminded that she had her next word. During one particularly hard segment 10 in a row heard a bell signaling the elimination.

Scripps National Spelling Bee used to start with a handshake. Now it all starts with a slap.

On Tuesday more slender and vicious, the bee returned to its usual place on Tuesday, for the first time in three years, and the letters were met by a new format of the previous round that did not give them time to settle down.

“The prime minister is not a joke. Every stage of the bee is so important, ”said Dhrov Bharatia, a 13-year-old teenager from Plano, Texas, who finished fourth last year.

In previous years, the early stage rounds of spelling had nothing but to weed out the weakest or most nervous authors. The real action was a written test that determined who would make it to the semifinals.

But during last year’s mostly virtual bee, the new CEO bee eliminated the test, and that structure continued when 229 authors took the stage for this year’s personal competition. Much more than half of the authors who competed by noon on Tuesday dropped out.

To reach the quarterfinals, which took place on Wednesday, the spelers had to say three words at the microphone in one turn. First, they got the word out of the submitted list of 4,000 – more than twice as many as in previous years. They then had to answer a question with several word variants about words from the same list. Finally, they had to write a word that could be found anywhere in Webster’s Unbroken Dictionary.

Annie-Lois Acheamong, one of three authors from Ghana, didn’t go that far. She successfully overcame her first word, “kulraphobia” – the fear of clowns – and was then asked to identify “edamame”. At first she smiled, but when she crossed her legs and could not stand still, it became clear that something else was happening.

“I think I’ll write it myself,” said the 13-year-old eighth-grader. “Can I go pee? I’m so sorry. “

She left the stage before receiving a response from stunned judges who suspended the competition and consulted on how to handle the situation.

“It was the first time,” Chief Justice Mary Brooks, who has been dealing with bees for 50 years, later said.

Ultimately, the judges decided to allow Annie-Lois to return to the microphone after the last scheduled day of the interview. Although she could be eliminated for exceeding the 30-second time limit for responding to vocabulary, Brooks said the author’s watch was suspended because she was experiencing a legal emergency.

There is a precedent for suspending the clock during what Brooks called “mitigating circumstances,” particularly in 2004, when Akshay Buddha lost consciousness on stage but recovered and finished second.

Braden Six from West Blockton, Alabama, may not have gone that far, but his time in front of the microphone on Tuesday included a new thrilling first-round drama.

The 13-year-old seventh-grader went on a plane for the first time to compete in this year’s bee. Braden’s first word was “ormol” – a golden alloy of copper, zinc and sometimes tin. He wrote “ORM” and then took a long agonizing pause before spitting out the last three letters. He held out his hands after defining the definition of the word “trembling” – a good description of his behavior at the microphone.

“It was really scary,” Braden said, “but I also felt really happy at the same time. It was a strange feeling. “

Then came “bromgrass” – any herb of a large kind of herbs, native to temperate regions. Something in that word bothered him.

“Can you say that again?” He asked.

“Can you say that again?”

He sighed deeply. “Can I say again?”

Bradon then explained his dilemma: “I didn’t know if he said it with ‘m’ or ‘n’ on ‘bromegrass.’

However, thanks to a certain combination of hard work, luck and perseverance, Braden will speak again on Wednesday.

Akira Harris will not be so lucky. An eighth-grader at the Ministry of Defense High School in Stuttgart, Germany, started by spelling “rednigote” correctly, then turned around and headed for her place.

“Akira, we need you for your word, which means round,” the judge told her.

She stood in silence, looking miserable, after being given three potential definitions for the word “bandit”. She guessed, “Huh?” – before she was told that she had to read the answer with the options under this letter, which was wrong.

Akira returned to the audience and buried his head in his mother’s shoulder. After her group of spellers was over, Akira made another beeline – this time for exits.

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Follow Ben Nachols at https://twitter.com/APBenNuckols

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