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

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

The 14-year-old, who officially finished tied for 10th place, walked away from the microphone to sit with her parents, but never lost her smile.

After her missed word, Lily said during a TV break that she had been very nervous while waiting for her final word, but “sort of felt relief” when the bell rang signifying it had been misspelled.

“Now I can enjoy the rest of it,” Lily said from the stage where she would watch the remainder of the finals.

The finals didn’t end until after 11 p.m., when Sukanya Roy, 14, of Scranton, Pa., spelled her final word, “cymotrichous,” meaning having wavy hair, and found herself the last speller standing. She received a standing ovation.

Sukanya said she knew the final word when it was given to her and got “kind of a surreal feeling” on the stage, knowing that when she spelled it correctly she would be crowned the champion.

“My heart started pounding,” Sukanya told an interviewer for ESPN. “I couldn’t believe it. I just wanted to make sure I spelled it right.”

Fifteen minutes into the first round of the finals, Lily, a Cape Elizabeth Middle School eighth-grader, successfully spelled her first word to remain alive in the championship.

Scribbling on her hand as she always does ahead of saying a word aloud, Lily spelled out “Cassiopeian,” which relates to the constellation Cassiopeia.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, an hour and a half before game time, the Maine spelling champ and the other 12 national finalists came out on stage to practice their waves and ham it up a bit.

When the elite 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 Lily and her compatriots had their game faces on and their minds fully focused on S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G.

Lily, the daughter of Portland Press Herald sports writer Glenn Jordan, had navigated a 25-word written test Tuesday, two rounds of words on stage during Wednesday’s preliminaries and four rounds of words during the semifinals earlier Thursday to reach the finals. Just 41 of the 275 National Bee spellers made it to the semifinals, and it took more than four hours to winnow that group down to the 13 finalists.

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

After the semifinals were over, Lily 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 Lily’s second and final trip to the National Spelling Bee, because ninth-graders are ineligible.

Experience clearly counts. Including Lily, eight finalists were back in the national contest for the second time, and four finalists were making third appearances.

Lily earned her way to the National Spelling Bee stage 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 sponsored Lily’s trip to the nationals.

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 include a $5,000 scholarship from the Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation.

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at:

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