Southland Spellers to Compete in National Spelling Bee Quarterfinals

Spelling Bee

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The quarterfinals of the 93rd Scripps National Spelling Bee will be held today with a 13-year-old from Tarzana and two contestants from Orange County among the 74 remaining competitors from the original field of 207.

Irene Thomas of Tarzana began Saturday's preliminaries by correctly spelling diapason, a noun meaning a full, rich outpouring of harmonious sound. She then correctly answered the word meaning question, “Something metatarsal is?'' by choosing “relating to the part of the foot that forms the instep''

In the third round, she correctly spelled torero, a noun meaning a matador or one of the supporting team.

When asked by City News Service how hard were the words she had to spell and give the correct definition for on Saturday, Irene responded by email, “They were mediocre. I think the more words you encounter and patterns you notice, the easier spelling and defining will be.''

Irene said she had seen diapason and metatarsal in the word list bee organizers had provided her, but not torero.

“I had heard of similar words of Spanish origin, so I pieced it together,'' Irene said.

The quarterfinals will consist of three rounds and be completed one round at a time.

“Based on the preliminary words, some words will be challenging for sure,'' Irene said.

The second round of each level of the competition – the preliminaries, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals -- will be 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 will have 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.

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.

The two Orange County spellers -- Baominh Le and Sophia Lin – both graduated Thursday from The Pegasus School, a private, pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school in Huntington Beach that had 583 students in the just completed school year.

James Swiger, the school's middle school director, attributed both Baominh and Sophia's spelling bee success to being avid readers.

Baominh is “always energetic,'' Swiger said.

“It's a sight to behold when he gets excited about a topic,'' Swiger said. “Baominh is one who revels in learning and academics.''

Swiger said “Baominh has a warm and kind spirit. He's always ready to offer a helping hand, and enjoys engaging in good conversation.''

Swiger described Sophia as “an incredibly hardworking scholar who doesn't leave anything on the table.''

“When class starts, she's prepared to make the most of the experience, ask questions, and dive deep into understanding,'' Swiger said.

Sophia is “confident in herself and not afraid to use her voice when needed but she's also one who offers a warm smile to everyone and is a good friend,'' Swiger said.

Swiger called Sophia “a driven scholar and a unique young lady.''

“She will be a mover and a shaker in the days to come,'' Swiger said.

Baominh's first word Saturday was meiosis, the process of cell division in sexually reproducing organisms that reduces the number of chromosomes from diploid to haploid. He then chose the correction definition for stamina, staying power.

Baominh's final word of the day was gallowglass, the mercenary warrior elite among Gaelic-Norse clans residing in the Western Isles of Scotland and Scottish Highlands from the mid-13th century to the end of the 16th century.

Sophia first correctly spelled scintillation, a flash of light produced in a phosphor by absorption of an ionizing particle or photon. She correctly defined oblique as slanting in direction or position.

Sophia's final word to spell Saturday was copestone, the highest point, as of achievement.

Saturday's preliminaries consisted of three rounds of oral competition, which took 11 1/2 hours to complete. There were 69 spellers who misspelled their first-round word, reducing the field to 138.

The field was further cut to 110 after the second round and 74 after the third.

The quarterfinals will be televised by the streaming service ESPN3 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. All spellers spelling both words correctly and correctly answering the word meaning question will advance to the semifinals, which will be held June 27.

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.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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