And the semifinalists are...

There are 49 semifinalists. Each scored at least 29 out of a possible 36 points between the on-stage and written spellings.

The semifinalists include four spellers who have made the finals before, three people whose siblings have one the top prize at the bee and three spellers who achieved perfect scores between the written test and on-stage spelling.

The semifinalists are:

Speller 1, Victor Sutton, from Auburn, Alabama

Speller 5, Marcus Behling, from Chandler, Arizona

Speller 9, Eesha Sohail, from Bakersfield, California


The 283 spellers who participated today will all get a Surface 3 from Microsoft. The semifinalists received their on stage, while those who have been eliminated received a voucher to pick theirs up later this week.

A long pause

JoJo Widi, speller 279, stood on stage for a while as judges conferred. He spelled "gamboge" with a second "A" before stopping to correct, but the "A" had already been uttered. He was eliminated.

Food can be challenging

There are typically a lot of food words at the bee. Three of them have tripped up recent spellers.

Kyoko Leaman, speller 265, was eliminated on "etouffee," a Cajun stew of shellfish or chicken served over rice. Carson Brown, speller 267, was knocked out on "bialy," a flat roll that has a depressed center and is usually covered with onion flakes. And Julia McCoy, speller 269, went out on "damson," the fruit of a rather small compact plum that has small dark purple fruits and is native to Asia Minor but now cultivated throughout much of the world.

Where is that?

Ethan Stinson, speller 266, got the language of origin, but it wasn't much help.

"Are you allowed to give me what continent Twi is on?" he asked when Dr. Bailly told him.

The answer was Africa -- West Africa, to be specific. But it didn't help Ethan spell "kente" and he was eliminated.

Who doesn't?

"Whenever Lydia finds herself in a barathrum, she opens her laptop and watches Youtube videos of bulldogs sitting on couches like people," Dr. Bailly said.

Trisha Balakrishnan, speller 263, spelled "barathrum" correctly. It means a bottomless pit or abyss : a place or state of misery, torment or wickedness.

Tejas Muthusamy, speller 264, spelled "Castalia" correctly. He tied for 8th place last year.


Caleb Adams, speller 256, bounces during each letter while he spells. He got "gongorism" correct and is still on stage.