YY Liang, from Westchester County, advanced to the finals of...

YY Liang, from Westchester County, advanced to the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.  Credit: Louis Lanzano

A Westchester girl is one of eight spellers left, surviving five grueling rounds Wednesday to make it to the Scripps National Spelling Bee finals Thursday night.

YY Liang, 12, one of three spellers representing the region, correctly spelled “pinguin,” a tropical American plant, “sauteur,” a kind of fish, and picked the correct definition of “fjord,” a narrow inlet of the sea between cliffs or steep slopes in semifinals.

Late Wednesday, YY said she was “surprised and happy” about the result.

As she waited for her turn to step up to the center stage and spell, her heart was racing, said the home-schooled seventh-grader.

“Right before it's my turn, I'm like really scared,” YY said. “Then when I get to the microphone, I feel better for some reason.”

YY won the ScholarSkills/Scripps Long Island-Westchester Spelling Bee on Long Island in March.

Another speller from the region, Victor Yang, 12, failed to advance from the quarterfinals Wednesday, even though it initially appeared that he had correctly spelled the word “rivel,” meaning wrinkle, in the first spelling round.

Victor left the center stage with a triumphant “yes,” believing he had advanced to the second round. But he was later told he misspelled the word because he had first said “g,” thinking he had heard another word before "rivel" was repeated. He then started over to correctly spell it, but according to contest rules he had failed the round, said his mother, Li Xue.

“I was a bit disappointed,” said Victor, who attends Great Neck North Middle School, recalling the moment after he was called offstage to hear the update.

But the sixth-grader said he planned to stay for the rest of the events, which end Friday.

Of her chance in the finals, YY said her goal is to avoid getting "dinged in the first round.”

And what about becoming the national champion?

“Unless I'm like the luckiest human alive, no,” she said. “That's essentially winning a lottery.”

A total of 245 spellers from around the nation and as far away as Guam were onstage at the beginning of the competition Tuesday. A third speller representing the region, Olivia Lipiec, 13, a seventh-grader who attends Accompsett Middle School in Smithtown, was eliminated in the final round of preliminaries Tuesday.

Victor Yang, of Great Neck — No. 146 — with other competitors...

Victor Yang, of Great Neck — No. 146 — with other competitors at the bee Tuesday.  Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin

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