NATIONAL HARBOR — For Urbana Middle School student Selomi Dayaprema, the Scripps National Spelling Bee marks “the unofficial start of summer.” The 12-year-old had no problem spelling either of her words but fell short of securing one of the 49 semifinal spots that were available at the close of Wednesday.
Along with both spelling rounds, the bee’s preliminary stages factor in a multiple choice test to reach the semis.
“I’m not disappointed, but I wish I did better,” Dayaprema said after the semifinalists were announced. “For the most part, I’m in a good mood, and I’m happy that my friends got to the semifinals.”
The result was similar to last year’s, when Dayaprema also spelled both rounds’ words, “euphemism” and “fulgent,” correctly, but missed the cutoff for the semifinals. That year, with her family based in Vicenza, Italy, she qualified as a student from the Defense and State Department Schools — Europe. They moved to Frederick last June.
In 2015, she advanced to the national competition after winning the Frederick County Spelling Bee.
Dayaprema’s word in the bee’s second round was “kishke” — beef or fowl casing stuffed with meat, flour and spices, and cooked. In the third round she correctly spelled “hieromonk,” a monk of the Eastern Church who is also a priest.
Dayaprema’s family members are no strangers to the bee; Selomi’s older brother, Anuk, won the European championship and competed in nationals three times between 2011 and 2013, finishing as high as 12th.
Of the 285 spellers who qualified, 65 were eliminated for incorrectly spelling one of their words by the end of the day.
“Overall, they seem like a very confident bunch,” said Paige Kimble, the bee’s executive director. “One thing to remember is these are kids who can’t tell you when they first remember being introduced to the bee, probably because they were toddlers when they saw it on TV and have probably identified themselves with one day being up on this stage. … Most of them, more than anything else, are very excited, which is why you see that confidence.”
The rapport between the spellers and the judges was good throughout the day. Dayaprema contributed to the jovial mood by exchanging pleasantries in French with the event’s pronouncer, Jacques A. Bailly, before being told her second word.
She said she wants to be a diplomat when she grows up.
Dayaprema remains eligible to compete next year, and she plans to study even harder.
In the meantime, Dayaprema intends to support her friends who advanced to Thursday’s next stage. She will also work on getting more signatures in her Bee Keeper, an annual yearbook that has profiles and trivia for every speller. Dayaprema said that the Bee Keeper serves as a good way to meet other spellers and find common interests.
“I was slacking this year,” she joked about the Bee Keeper.
Words by Nick Kariuki
Video by Xaiolan Tang