The end of May is when most students get excited about closing the textbooks and abandoning academics for summer vacation.
But Neha Konakalla and Audrey Bantug were just getting started Wednesday.
The Bay Area girls, both 13, are two of 281 eager participants trying to spell their way to the top in the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee near Washington, D.C. Both did well by spelling their words correctly, but by late Wednesday afternoon, Neha was eliminated. The San Francisco Chronicle, Neha's official sponsor, said she failed to qualify to the semifinals because of resutlts from both oral and written testing.
The contest features spellers from all 50 states as well as Canada, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Italy, China, and Japan to name a few. The contestants range in age from eight to 14, and 116 of them speak more than one language.
Neha is a seventh grader at Sam H. Lawson Middle School in Cupertino. According to her bio
, she speaks Telugu and Tamil in addition to English and also has artistic talent. She said her favorite subject is science and she aspires to be a doctor.
Audrey is also multilingual, speaking fluent Tagalog. She is an eighth grader at Iron Horse Middle School in San Ramon and, according to her bio
, is passionate about reading and writing. She hopes to be a writer one day.
Both girls were still in the running to be this year’s champion, having survived the spelling portion of round three – Konakalla with the word “eccrinology,” and Bantug with “umami.”
(Just in case you didn't know: Eccrinology means the branch of anatomy dealing with secretions and umami is a Japanese word meaning a savory taste.)
The competition consists of three preliminary rounds, which began Tuesday, followed by two semifinal rounds and a championship final.
The winner of Thursday night’s final will receive over $30,000 in cash and prizes.
Last year’s winner, Snigdha Nandipati, 14, of San Diego, clinched the title by conquering the word “guetapens.” (We helped you with the first two, but look this one up if you're unsure of the meaning.)
To help viewers follow up-to-the-minute updates on the competition, the Scripps National Spelling Bee is running a live Twitter feed on their account @ScrippsBee.