9: 56 p.m.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Maine spelling champ Lily Jordan was finally felled at the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee, and it was an “f” that did her in during the second round of a tension-filled finals.

Given the word “phanerogam,” meaning a seed plant or flowering plant, Jordan spelled out “fanerogam.” That put Jordan out of the nationally televised competition and left 11 finalists vying to be national spelling champion.

The 14-year-old walked away from the microphone to sit with her parents, but never lost her smile.

Fifteen minutes into the first round of tonight’s finals, Jordan, a 14-year-old Cape Elizabeth Middle School eighth-grader, had successfully spelled out her first word, “Cassiopeian,” which relates to the constellation of the same name.
 

9:38 p.m.: Jordan still rolling after first word in Bee finals

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Maine spelling champ Lily Jordan delivered on her first word tonight in what promised to be a tension-filled finals to the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Fifteen minutes into the nationally televised contest, Jordan, a 14-year-old Cape Elizabeth Middle School eighth-grader, had successfully spelled out her first word and was one of 13 finalists still alive in the quest to be National Spelling Bee champion.

Scribbling on her hand as she always does ahead of saying the word aloud, Jordan spelled out “Cassiopeian,” which relates to the constellation of the same name, and walked back to her chair still a potential national spelling champion.

At 7 p.m., an hour and a half before game time, Jordan and the other 12 finalists in the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee came out on stage to practice their waves and ham it up a bit.

When the elite group of spellers lined up again on the stage at 8:30 p.m., the ESPN camera lights were on, the ballroom at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center was filled with cheering onlookers and Jordan and her compatriots had their game faces on and their minds fully focused on S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G.

Jordan, the daughter of Portland Press Herald sports writer Glenn Jordan, navigated a 25-word written test on Tuesday, two rounds of words on stage during Wednesday’s preliminaries and four rounds of words during the semi-finals earlier today to reach the finals. Just forty-one of the 275 Bee spellers made it to the semi-finals, and it took more than four hours to winnow that down to the 13 finalists.

Jordan, who also likes sports such as softball and ice hockey, successfully spelled out “dolichopodous,” a word of Greek origin meaning having a relatively long foot, when she got up to the microphone for the fourth time this afternoon, cinching her trip to the finals.

After the semi-finals were over, Jordan said she was excited but also “really nervous” at the prospect of competing in the championship round. “I just try to breathe” while on stage, she said.

This was Jordan’s second and final trip to the Bee, because ninth-graders are not eligible.

Experience clearly counts at the National Spelling Bee. Including Jordan, eight finalists were back in the national contest for the second time, and four were making third appearances.

Jordan earned her way to the National Spelling Bee stage for the second year in a row by winning the Maine State Spelling Bee, which 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. MaineToday Media is sponsoring Jordan in the national Bee.

During the finals, parents and other family members were allowed to sit on the stage, across from where their spellers sat waiting their turns to approach the microphone.

Just making the finals was worth at least a $1,500 cash prize. Finishing sixth is worth $2,000, fifth $2,500, fourth $3,000, third $7,500 and second $12,500. The champion will win $30,000 cash from Scripps and a $25,000 U.S. savings bond from Merriam-Webster, as well as a complete reference library. Other awards for the champion also include a $5,000 scholarship from the Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation.