NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Abhilash Yarlagadda, 13, didn’t take it too hard when he didn’t advance to the championship finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. But his 7-year-old, proud sister, Maanasa, was in tears.
“He was normal sitting there,” Sunitha Yarlagadda, their mother said, laughing. “He was like, ‘I’m cool. I’m fine,’ and she was sitting there crying when he got out of Round 5.”
Abhilash was tied for 36th place with three other spellers as the semifinals began.
He approached the microphone during Round 5, the first of two rounds of the semifinals, and misspelled the word “cataphyll,” which is a type of leaf. The teen from Blue Ash, Ohio, instead spelled “catephyll” and did not progress to Round 6.
“This is his first time here,” Yarlagadda said. “I’m very proud of him that he made it this far.”
Abhilash said that he will continue to study spelling, even though he can no longer compete in the bee because of his age and status as a ninth-grader.
“It will help with a lot of things instead of just for the spelling bee,” he said. “It will be helpful to use when I am writing things for school and beyond.”
In addition, the Sycamore Junior High School eighth-grader, will continue to participate in Latin Certamen events, in which he competes monthly with other students answering Latin trivia about grammar, vocabulary, Roman history and culture.
After the applause died Wednesday, the 49 finalists took a second written spelling and vocabulary test. In a first, bee officials released a list Thursday morning ranking the semifinalists based on their performance on stage Wednesday and both written tests.
Those ranked near the bottom knew they had little chance of making into the finals, but they spelled earnestly, hoping to end with a higher rank.
Those who spelled their first words correctly got a second chance to spell on stage. After that, bee officials chose the top 10 spellers based on their total scores. The finals will air Thursday at 8 p.m. EDT on ESPN. The winner takes home $35,000 in cash, a trophy and other prizes.
Reach reporter Kathleen Devaney at [email protected] or 202-408-1494. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.