Gazette-Mail Spelling Bee
Christal Schermeister, 13, of Pembroke Pines, Fla. exited in the second round, misspelling "doryline." Fellow Floridian Nikitha Chandran, 13, was the first finalist out of the bee, missing "pathognomonic" in the first round
The field started with 281 competitors from all over the world. That number decreased gradually during the first two oral rounds, with 240 correctly spelling both of their words. The results of a computerized spelling and vocabulary test knocked out most, reducing the number of competitors to 42.
From there, 10 competitors tripped up in the first oral portion of the semifinals. The last segment of the semifinals ushered out another 14 spellers.
The 11 finalists were chosen from the eligible 18 based on their scores from another computer-based spelling and vocabulary test.
Most spellers this year were between the ages of 12 and 14. Almost half were in eighth grade, and more than 63 percent attended public schools. Almost a quarter of the students attended private or parochial schools. Another 25 are home schooled.
Each of the oral rounds aired on different ESPN channels. It's the 20th year the station has broadcast the event; Executive Director Paige Kimble said earlier in the week most contestants say being on live TV was their favorite part of the experience.
Lauren Coccari of Sissonville and her three fellow West Virginia spellers each spelled their words correctly in the first two oral rounds, but didn't score well enough on the first computer test to advance.
Lauren attended the finals with her parents, Gene and Stephanie. Gene said the family spent Thursday touring Washington and said they thoroughly enjoyed their trip.
Lauren's appearance in the national bee was sponsored by the Gazette-Mail, the West Virginia Automobile and Truck Dealers Association and the College Foundation of West Virginia, or cfwv.com
In addition to the all-expense-paid trip to the nation's capital, she won a $2,500 college savings account from the state treasurer's SMART529 program.