Locals Out of Competition in National Spelling Bee Final

Only approximately 50 spellers advance to the finals.

A pair of San Diego-area seventh graders took their talents to Washington D.C. this week to show off their skills at the 89th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Ella Peters, a seventh grader from Notre Dame Academy in Carmel Valley, and Ali Hussain, a seventh grader at Kennedy Middle School in El Centro, both competed in Wednesday morning’s preliminary round.

The bee kicked off with a 26-question multiple-choice vocabulary test during the first round on Tuesday, followed by the preliminary round on Wednesday morning where contestants were met with two rounds of onstage spelling.

Peters aced the preliminary round by spelling “apologue” and then “polity."

"It's really a surreal experience," Peters said after the first day of competition. "I don't really know how to describe it."

However, Peters did not earn enough points to make it to the finals, according to competition officials. The points are earned in preliminary testing as well as the spelling on stage.

What Peters enjoyed most about the experience is that she can meet new friends just by starting a conversation about spelling.

Peters punched her ticket to the National Bee by winning the San Diego County Spelling Bee in March. She dazzled her way through the local competition turning in words like “endotracheal” and “bioluminescent” before sealing the victory by spelling “phlegm.”

Unfortunately, Hussain was eliminated when he was stumped by his first word, “chanoyu.” Despite an early exit, the Old Town native still has high expectations for himself with dreams of studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or the University of California, Berkeley.

Only approximately 50 spellers can advance to the finals.

The final round consists of consecutive onstage spelling rounds until one speller is left standing. If three spellers or less still remain after 25 rounds, the contestants will be named co-champions.

Two hundred and fifty-eight students ranging from six to 15 years old participated in this year’s competition, representing the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Jamaica, American Samoa, South Korea, Japan, Guam, Ghana, and the Bahamas.

Want to see how well you would fair amongst the world’s top grade school talent? Step on NBC’s digital stage and see if you can spell words that former National Spelling Bee contestants couldn’t.

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