The San Diego speller didn’t advance to that group of 49, but she was cheering with other contestants for her new friend Eesha Sohail, also from California, who was named one of the semifinalists.
“I am so excited for her,” Oona said. “I met her here at the bee.”
Oona correctly spelled both words in Rounds 2 and 3 onstage Wednesday, but she said the written spelling and vocabulary test that she took on Tuesday held her back.
“It’s such an honor just to be here,” Oona’s mother, Kiko Gladsjo, said. “I mean it’s like, wow, these 49 kids got to be in the semifinals, but they really are all winners.”
During the rounds, Oona seemed only slightly nervous about spelling “xiphias,” another word for swordfish.
“May I have a spelling please?” Oona joked onstage, asking for the origin of the word as well.
She said she saw her Round 2 word, “geoponics,” in her head. Geoponics is the science or art of cultivating the Earth.
This is the last year Oona qualifies for the bee because of her age, but she’s excited to move on and pursue other academic interests.
“I’ve had the experience of the spelling bee, but now I can go on to study for other things that I’m into like debate,” the blue-haired teen said.
All 283 spellers appeared on stage Wednesday morning for Round 2, the first oral round. Only four spellers missed their words, and were out of the bee. By the end of Round 3 in the afternoon, 214 spellers remained. In both rounds, all the words came from a list of 1,000 study words.
At the close of Round 3, bee officials combined the scores earned by spellers in Tuesday’s written test and points earned spelling on stage to choose 49 semifinalists. After taking a second written test Wednesday evening, they will compete Thursday beginning at 10 a.m. EDT on ESPN2.
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. All of the spellers were given Microsoft Surface 3 tablet computers to close Wednesday’s program.
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.