By AMIE PARNES
Scripps Howard News Service
June 01, 2005
Twenty minutes later, the words grew to double digit-mammoths like "mitrailleuse," a machine gun; "pyrgeometer," an instrument to determine radiation; and "nephrolithiasis," a condition marked by the presence of renal calculi - words even a computer spellchecker can't even spell right.
And after a written test of 25 words and one word on stage for each speller, 97 children moved onto the third round, set to begin at 2 p.m. EDT.
In the second round, the first on stage, Laura Brown of Rainbow City, Ala., confronted her word.
"Tergiversation," the pronouncer announced, sounding like a robot.
The 13-year-old stood like a monument in her gray New Balance sneakers, searching her memory for the correct spelling. For a long moment the Independence Ballroom at the Grand Hyatt hotel was silent.
Laura, the first speller in the 78th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, nailed the word, which means a reversal of opinion, to the applause of parents and teachers. She quickly walked back to her seat, away from the spotlight and cameras, her blue eyes gleaming. She spelled enough words correctly to move onto the third round.
Kendra Yoshinaga, an 11-year-old from Ventura, Calif., also seemed to get a spelling-curveball, but she too spelled her word - "brummagem," something cheap or inferior - with ease. He moved onto Round 3.
But tension was evident early on in the competition.
Jordynne Ropat, of Windsor, Ontario, started to cry when she learned she incorrectly spelled the word "choucroute" - meaning sauerkraut - with an "s" instead of a "c." Spelling bee officials quickly ran on the stage and escorted the 12-year-old to her mother, waiting in the front row. Jordynne reappeared on the stage a few minutes later. Jordynne didn't make it to Round 3.
Other spellers made faces reminiscent of visits to the dentist's office when they heard their word recited by the judge, realizing they were doomed.
Ronnie Cowsert, of Fort Pierce, Fla., cringed when he learned his spelling bee fate was riding on the word "cirrhosis," a liver disease. He spelled the word suorrosis. He didn't make it to the next round.
The competition had its lighter moments. During the written exam taken early Wednesday morning, the pronouncer asked students to spell the word " scherenschnitte," "the art of cutting paper into decorative designs."
The audience roared in are-you-kidding-me laughter.
Later, in the middle of the second round, Victoria Suzanne Stanley was asked to spell "sciamachy," a mock or futile battle.
"Excuse me?" the 10-year-old from Summitville, Ind., asked. The audience chuckled. Victoria didn't make it to the third round.
Later, Megan Elaine Courtney was asked to spell "trichotillomania."
"Can I have the definition please," she asked.
"An abnormal desire to pull out one's own hair," the judge replied without a hint of a smile. Megan didn't make it through the later rounds.
Spellers are competing for a grand prize of $22,000 in cash, a $5,000 scholarship, a $1,000 savings bond, a set of encyclopedias and a trophy.
The championship rounds of the spelling bee will be broadcast live on ESPN from 10 a.m. to noon ET on Thursday, then again from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Those rounds will be shown again on ESPN2 on Sunday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on June 6 from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
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