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49 Kids Eliminated in Spelling Bee

May 31, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Even the adult-filled crowd gasped when 12-year-old Aarthi Arunachalam heard today that ``ipsedixitism″ was her first word in the 2000 Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee.

The seventh-grader from North Palm Beach, Fla., adjusted the microphone to her height and found out the word means ``a dogmatic assertion.″ Then she spelled it correctly to survive the first round of the national competition.

The opening two rounds claimed 49 of the first 124 contestants heading into the afternoon competition.

Hawaii’s Heidi Maeda stood out among the white-shirted contestants, wearing a bright-pink sweater over her shirt. She spelled slowly, but by the time she got to the end of ``amethysts″ _ the plural of a word meaning a clear purple or bluish violet variety of crystallized quartz _ she had advanced.

Seth Stogsdill, 14, of Kentucky, also had the microphone adjusted closer to his wheelchair, but when he heard that his word was ``simnel″ _ a rich fruitcake _ he admitted: ``I don’t know this one.″ Still, he only missed it by one letter, spelling it with an ``a″ instead of an ``e.″

The youngest competitors, 9-year-old Nathaniel Ralstin of Zionville, Ind., was stumped by ``Kabuki,″ the traditional Japanese popular drama with singing and dancing performed in a highly stylized manner.

Lillian Mandregan, 14, of Fairbanks, Alaska, hesitated in the middle of ``pusillanimous.″ She continued, but got it wrong, becoming the first contestant knocked out. The word means lacking courage or manly strength and resolution.

Parents in the audience clapped politely after each child finished.

``The real goal behind this is for the kids to enhance their vocabularies,″ said Mona Goldstein of West Hempstead, N.Y., whose daughter Joy _ aka ``JJ″ _ is in the competition. ``They are all winners because of what they’ve learned.″

JJ, a fifth-grader who likes to read her 16-year-old sister’s e-mails and play basketball with her brother, ``when he isn’t cheating,″ is among 19 contestants who had a sibling, cousin or parent compete in previous national finals.

No major changes have been implemented from last year’s rules to speed up the marathon two days of spelling. Jamaica returned to the competition this year after being banned in 1999 for holding its local qualifying contest too early. Critics said youngsters there had as much as a six-month head start to prepare for the national finals. The 1998 winner was from the Caribbean island nation.

Their representative this year, Rhea Marcella Brathwaite, 13, survived the opening round.

This year, pupils are arriving from 49 states _ the exception is Vermont, where no newspaper sponsored a local bee this year _ and the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the Bahamas, Guam, Jamaica, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the worldwide schools run by the Defense and State departments.

The 75-year-old competition always has been a family affair, said Mark Kroeger, a spokesman for Scripps Howard, the Cincinnati-based media group that sponsors the national finals and produces the wordlists and study materials. In 1990, for example, eight spellers were related to previous contestants, he said; 14 were last year.

This is the 73rd annual National Spelling Bee. The series began in 1925 but was not held in the World War II years 1943-45.

``You often see whole families come down for the bee,″ Kroeger said Tuesday, as families went on bee-sponsored tours of city landmarks.

It’s no surprise to officials that some children are inspired to spell by watching a sibling, Kroeger said. ``You can see the families that encourage a high standard of academics.″


On the Net: The spelling bee site is: http://www.spellingbee.com/

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