She spelled duende, nuptiality and shiatsu successfully yesterday, but today, in the semifinal round, the word Bercy, a sauce made from white wine, light stock, shallots, and herbs, put an end to Chester County home-schooler Meghan Reynolds' run at the National Spelling Bee championship.
The other Pennsylvania speller in the semifinal, Jahnavi Iyer, 14, of Enola, Pa., outside Harrisburg, is one of 12 who will head to tonight's finals; the contest started with 288 students. The finals will be televised at 8 p.m. tonight on ABC. More on the bee can be found at its website: www.spellingbee.com.
Iyer, an eighth grader, spelled three words successfully today. They were: solidungulate, defined as a mammal having a single hoof on each foot, hypabyssal, of or relating to a fine-grained igneous rock usually formed at a moderate distance below the surface and galeate, helmet-shaped or hooded.
Reynolds, 14, of Landenberg, one of 45 who got to the semifinal round, incorrectly spelled Bercy as "berci." Then following the ring of a bell telling her she had gotten it wrong, she waved and said "Bye, Dr. Bailly," to the pronouncer, Jaques Bailly of the University of Vermont, and walked off the stage, as her parents and others in the audience applauded.
In a phone interview after the semifinal, Meghan said: "I did my best job and I'm glad I went out on a word that I really did not know. . . . It was a great week; I'm glad I was able to come." She said that because she was not familiar with Bercy, "since it was French and rhymed with the word merci, I just spelled it like that, but with a B."
Since last September, she has spent about 45 minutes a day studying spelling words, and for the last few months, she has spent one and a half to two hours boning up for the contest, Meghan said. Now, she said, she'll have more time for getting "better at playing the guitar and [historical] reenactments with Junior Guides" for the Chadds Ford Historical Society.
The spelling bee champion will take home cash prizes totaling $35,000 plus a $2,500 savings bond, reference works, and an engraved trophy. All contestants receive smaller cash prizes and other keepsakes.
This year's 288 participants was a record high, with 153 girls and 135 boys, ages 8 to 15. They began the day yesterday in the bee at the Grand Hyatt Washington, and each received his or her one guaranteed moment in the spotlight during an initial round.
Megan had to battle to even get into the bee; last year, the Avon Grove School District initially ruled her ineligible to compete in the contest at her middle school because she is home-schooled.
That decision was reversed after her parents, some neighbors and two state senators protested. She had won the bee as a sixth grader at the same middle school the year before.
Fighting for the right to compete in the bee was valuable to Meghan beyond the immediate objective, her mother said. "It's important to stick up for yourself when you are right, to learn to stand up for your rights," Kim Reynolds said.
Of the initial bee contestants, 36 are home-schooled. About two-thirds, or 190, attend public schools.
Two contestants - Tia Thomas, 13, of Coarsegold, Calif., and Matthew C. Evans, 13, of Albuquerque, N.M. - were competing in the national bee for the fifth time. Both advanced to the semifinals; Thomas is in the finals but Evans went out in the sixth round.
The bee is administered by the E.W. Scripps Co. and 280 sponsors in the United States, American Samoa, the Bahamas, Canada, Europe, Ghana, Guam, Jamaica, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, South Korea, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.