Isabelle Scott, the 14-year-old East Setauket student representing Long Island at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., was eliminated in the third preliminary round of the competition Wednesday evening.
"This has been an excellent experience. It's been so incredible. The people have been incredible, too," Scott said in a phone interview after receiving the news. "I've never done anything like this before. . . . Practicing new words just enhances your vocabulary."
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Scott, an eighth-grader at Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School, said she was not a competitive person, so she wasn't disappointed in herself. "But I wanted to do well for other people, so I was slightly upset that I didn't get as far as they would have wanted me to," she said.
The bee included 281 spellers from the United States, Canada, Europe, Jamaica, Japan and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Forty-one spellers progressed to the semifinals Wednesday, said Lee Rose of The E.W. Scripps Co., the nonprofit organization that administers the spelling bee.
In Round 2 -- the first time spellers hit the stage -- 15 participants misspelled words, she said. During the third round, 224 spellers -- including Scott -- were eliminated, based on the cumulative points that they earned by taking a computerized test with spelling and vocabulary components and by their performance on stage Wednesday, Rose said.
No more than 50 spellers may advance to the semifinals, as per the bee's rules, she said, adding that about a dozen participants typically make it to the championship finals, broadcast live on Thursday from 8 to 10 p.m. on ESPN.
Scott's mother, Dr. Allison McLarty, said her daughter took her performance at the bee "in stride."
"This cut is a brutal cut because this year only 41 people advanced to the semifinals," McLarty said. "We're very proud of the hard work she put in and the poise that she conducted herself with on and offstage."
Scott spelled "juggernaut" and "melee" correctly on stage, McLarty said. But Scott said the vocabulary section of the computerized test was not her "forte" and "where I suffered the most."
"They would give you the word and ask you to find a synonym for it or use the word in a sentence," she said of the vocabulary test.
Scott said she planned to take the night off with her family and have a celebratory dinner with her favorite food -- Thai.
Of her experience at the spelling bee, Scott said she enjoyed meeting "very scholarly" people and taking part in something unique.
"I realize this isn't something that many people get to do," Scott said. "So I'm proud of myself for taking part in it."