WASHINGTON – Maithreyi Gopalakrishnan,14,of Superior,Colo.,spelled “salinelle” Wednesday to advance to the semifinals of the 80th Scripps National Spelling Bee.
The word refers to a volcano erupting salty mud.
Maithreyi,sponsored by the Daily Camera,moves to the next round Thursday with 58 other spellers from around the country.
Maithreyi spelled immediately before Jake A. Smith,of Highlands Ranch,sponsored by Denver's Rocky Mountain News. After she got her word right,Jake misspelled “piroplasmosis,” a tick-borne infection,mainly in cattle.
She figured out the spelling of her word by pretending to write it on the card hanging around her neck with her contest number on it.
“I was really happy right when I heard the word because I knew that I was going to be … on ESPN,” Maithreyi said. “I knew the word.”
Like the other semifinalists,Maithreyi is preparing for the semifinals Thursday morning by getting some more studying done.
“I'll do a little bit of last-minute studying,but mainly get a lot of rest because tomorrow's going to be a long day,” she said.
Maithreyi is optimistic and hopes that she'll win on her fourth try. Her age will prohibit her from participating in next year's spelling bee,so she's hoping her lucky charms,a glass bee and a coin,will bring her victory.
“They make me feel a little more confident,” Maithreyi said. “I always have them in my hand,and I know that they will help me.”
Her charms seemed to be helping so far,even though she found some of the words to be difficult.
“Some of the words were hard,” she said. “But I just tried to focus on my own words and not worry about the rest.”
If she wins,Maithreyi doesn't know what she would do with the $35,000 prize money and a long list of other prizes and scholarships.
“I haven't really thought about it yet. I don't know,” she said. “Maybe store it away for now and see what I can do with it.”
Murali Gopalakrishnan,Maithreyi's father,is excited about his daughter's progress in the competition. He hopes that she will be the last one standing,not leaving the spelling bee empty handed for the fourth time.
“I'm pretty happy right now,” he said.
Maithreyi's tedious study schedule allowed her to place 37th at the Scripps National Spelling Bee two years ago. She can spell her favorite word,”pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis” without hesitation,so the idea she could win isn't too far fetched. Sometimes cited as the longest English-language word,it refers to a lung disease caused by silica dust.
“I'm really having a lot of fun and I guess this is a big bonus right now,” she said.
On Thursday,the semi-finals will be televised in the morning on ESPN and the finals will be live on ABC from 8 to 10 p.m.