And then there were 42

OXON HILL, Md. – Forty-two youngsters have advanced to the semifinals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee; not among them are two area spellers.

The 42 had the highest scores after Wednesday’s onstage rounds and a computer test that included a vocabulary section for the first time in bee history.

Rebekah Stanhope, 13, of Kinsman, represented the Tribune Chronicle. The seventh-grader at Joseph Badger Middle School recently took home the first place prize for the second year in a row at the 22nd annual Tribune Chronicle Spelling Bee.

It also was Stanhope’s second time attending the national competition in Washington, D.C. She correctly spelled “mystique” in round two and “vaccinee” in round three on Wednesday.

Max Lee, 13, an eighth-grader at Canfield Village Middle School, correctly spelled “Rottweiler” and “blouson” in rounds 2 and 3, respectively.

Although Stanhope and Lee correctly spelled their words, Wednesday’s results were combined with scores from a computer test to determine the semifinalists.

Stanhope said she learned more than 400 words in preparation for the competition, studying for at least an hour a day since the regional bee in March. She also tested her skills on the Scripps spelling bee website.

”I would have liked to have advanced to the semifinals but am happy that I competed,” Stanhope said Wednesday evening.

”On Memorial Day we had a barbecue and I got to meet a lot of the spellers. It’s not as competitive as you might expect. Everyone has been very supportive of each other and friendly and people were giving high-fives to the other spellers when someone spelled their word correctly,” Stanhope said.

”There were so many really good spellers. When someone missed a word it was very surprising,” she said.

Mom Christina Stanhope said, ”We’ve had a really good time. It feels a lot different this year knowing what to expect and what takes place. Last year was very overwhelming for all of us not knowing what was going to happen. This year we were all calm and ready.

”She has learned a lot being here two years. She’s had a lot of fun,” she said. ”We are proud of her.”

The semifinals are this afternoon and the finals are set for tonight. The winner will take home more than $30,000 in cash and prizes.

The 281 spellers came from all 50 states as well as Canada, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, China, Ghana, Italy, American Samoa, the Bahamas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The youngest was 8-year-old Tara Singh of Louisville, Ky., who did not qualify for the semifinals. Last year there was a 6-year-old – Lori Anne Madison, the youngest speller ever to qualify – but she did not win her regional bee this year.

There was also a blind speller, 12-year-old Richelle Zampella from Muskogee, Okla. Richelle took the computer test in Braille and correctly spelled “capricious” and “trianon” onstage. She scored high enough on the computer test to make the semifinals.

The daylong tension was evident, but there was also comic relief. When given the word “entourage,” Abirami Ratnakumar of Seneca Falls, N.Y., asked: “Can you draw me a picture of the word?”

Pronouncer Jacques Bailly replied: “I’m not that good at drawing.”

For a change of pace, there was 13-year-old Katie Denis of Gastonia, N.C., who asked the judges: “Would you mind if I were to sing the letters? It would help me.”

They said fine, as long as they could understand them.

Katie then sang the letters to “stabilimeter” – and got it right.

The competition began with more than 11 million students participating in classrooms, schools and locally-sponsored spelling bees.