A seventh-grader who attends Notre Dame Academy in San Diego correctly spelled two words Wednesday in the preliminary rounds of the 89th Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland, but was unable to make the finals.
Ella Grace Peters correctly spelled "polity," meaning civil order, and "apologue," an allegorical narrative usually intended to convey a moral.
However, she missed the definition of a vocabulary word "expugnable," which means capable of being conquered. Her other vocabulary word, "allusive" -- meaning marked by indirect reference -- was correct.
Ella was one of 285 spellers from around the country who took to the stage at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. The preliminary rounds cut the field to 45 for Thursday's competition.
The bass player in an all-girl rock band, the Misnomers, she qualified for the national bee by winning the San Diego County Spelling Bee on March 15. Her final word was phlegm.
The San Diego area has had two winners since the turn of the century -- Snigdha Nandipati in 2012 and Anurag Kashyap seven years earlier.
The bee is intended "to inspire children to improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives," according to Paige Kimble, the bee's executive director and 1981 champion.
The bee is limited to students in eighth grade or below, with contestants ranging in age from 6 to 15 years old.
The field consists of students who won locally sponsored bees in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, along with American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Department of Defense schools in Europe.
Six foreign nations are also represented -- the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.
The semifinals will be shown on ESPN2 from 7-10 a.m. Thursday and the finals from 5-7 p.m. Thursday on ESPN.
The finals can also be seen on the WatchESPN app.
Throughout the bee, ESPN3 and WatchESPN will have a multiple-choice "Play-Along" version, where viewers will have a one-in-four chance to pick the correct spelling.
Informational boxes highlighting the word's etymology, definition, pronunciation and part of speech, along with live tweets and the speller's biography are also part of the "Play-Along" version.
What ESPN has dubbed as the "SpellCheck" feature has been added to the main feed, highlighting each individual letter as the speller spells the word. Correct letters will be highlighted in gold and the first letter the speller gets incorrect will be highlighted in red.
The winner will receive $40,000 from Scripps, which owns television stations, cable networks and newspapers; a $2,500 U.S. savings bond and complete reference library from the dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster; and $400 in reference works from Encyclopaedia Britannica and a three-year membership to Britannica Online Premium.