WASHINGTON — When Lily Jordan gets up on stage today in the National Spelling Bee, the Maine State Spelling Bee champion expects to be excited, and maybe a bit nervous.
But it won’t be a new experience for the eighth-grader from Cape Elizabeth Middle School, who celebrated her 14th birthday here Sunday.
This is Jordan’s second year in the national contest, which will culminate Thursday night with the finals live in prime time on ESPN.
Because this is her last year in the competition — among the eligibility requirements is a cut-off after eighth grade — she said she is excited and nervous. “I have been waiting a whole year for this,” she said.
On Tuesday, the field of 275 spellers took a written 25-word test, which will figure into each one’s preliminaries score, along with the words they spell today during two on-stage rounds.
Jordan said she thought the written test “went pretty well.”
Today’s rounds will help winnow the field to no more than 50 spellers for the semifinals. And beginning with the semifinals Thursday morning, a misspelled word will knock a speller out of the competition.
The finals will air on ESPN from 8:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday. The semifinal round, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, also will be on ESPN. Today’s preliminary rounds will be broadcast on ESPN3.
Jordan, who fell short of last year’s semifinals, earned a return to the National Spelling Bee by outlasting 15 other middle school-age students from each county in Maine.
The Maine State Spelling Bee, held in Portland in March, was sponsored by NextGen and hosted by MaineToday Media Inc., which publishes The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta and Morning Sentinel in Waterville, the weekly Coastal Journal in Bath and their respective websites.
The Press Herald is sponsoring Jordan in the national competition.
The bee’s location is different this year. Instead of being held in a hotel in downtown Washington where it has been held for years, the competition is being staged at a large resort complex in suburban Maryland, about 15 minutes outside of Washington.
National Spelling Bee officials made sure that Jordan’s last year in the competition got off to a memorable start: They had birthday cakes at registration for her and three other spellers whose birthdays were on Sunday, and for one whose birthday fell Tuesday.
MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at: [email protected]