WASHINGTON – Despite correctly spelling two words in front of the large crowd gathered Thursday for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Lily Jordan of Cape Elizabeth will not advance to the semifinals.

She was done in by a first-round written test, in which she missed seven of 25 words.

“I didn’t think I was in (the semifinals) after I saw my round one results,” said Lily, a seventh-grader at Cape Elizabeth Middle School.

Two words that gave her trouble were “pusillanimous” and “sabbatical.”

Lily did spell “taipan” and “vacatur” in two rounds in front of the audience. All three rounds are combined for each competitor’s score; only those who scored above 27 advanced to the semifinals. Lily scored a total of 24 points.

“It’s been a fantastic experience,” said Nancy Jordan, Lily’s mother. “Just being here was Lily’s main goal. It’s been terrific.”

Lily’s family — including her father, Glenn Jordan, a Portland Press Herald sportswriter — will stay in Washington until Sunday. An awards banquet Saturday night will be followed by a party for all of the contestants.

The 48 semifinalists were announced after the three preliminary rounds. Each contestant took the written test for round one, then completed two rounds in front of the audience.

In rounds two and three, Lily spoke clearly into the microphone and waited for the wave of applause after correctly spelling her words.

She is one of 225 children who didn’t reach the semifinals. Some came from across oceans to compete. Darren Kwame Sackey, 13, of Accra, Ghana, did not advance, in spite of a large cheering section.

Lily won the Maine State Spelling Bee on March 20 in Portland, beating 12 other county spelling champs. The Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram sponsored the state competition.

At the national competition, the announcement of the semifinalists brings elation for some and a somber moment for many others. The spelling bee’s director, Paige Kimble, said, “Each year I make this announcement, I quiver like a leaf.”

After the announcement, Lily watched other contestants celebrate or sulk, while maintaining the same cool demeanor she showed during the competition. “It was really fun meeting all these people and spelling on the stage,” Lily said.

The early exit won’t slow her down. She still has her sights on a multi-faceted career as a professional softball player, author and educational reformer. Her potential educational reforms include a significant decrease in assigned homework.

With one more year of eligibility, Lily may have one more national spelling bee to attend.

“I’m going to try and make the semifinals next year,” she said.


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