Sacramento spelling bee champ falters in national competition

Aditya Mishra mastered “mélange” and “catalepsy” in the opening rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Wednesday.

But the seventh-grader at Olympus Junior High School in Roseville won’t be moving on to Thursday’s semifinal round.

Mishra and 280 other students made their way to the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Maryland, hoping to leave with the title of National Spelling Bee Champion. But after two prelimary rounds combining a vocabulary test and spelling on stage, only 46 would advance to the semifinals. Mishra was not among them.

It was the second trip to the National Spelling Bee for the 12-year-old from Lincoln. Last year, he was eliminated after the second round of preliminaries.

“I wasn’t as nervous like I was last year,” Mishra said Wednesday. “But I was still pretty nervous.”

As he took the stage to spell his first word, mélange, he appeared collected. Taking his time, he calmly asked for the definition of the word, its use in a sentence, its part of speech, and origin.

With one deep breath and a head nod, he was ready: “Mélange, M-E-L-A-N-G-E,” he spelled slowly and methodically for the judges and several hundred audience members in a suburban hotel ballroom.

Prior to the competition, Mishra prepared by using the study guide provided by Scripps and with words his mom would pull from the dictionary.

Catalepsy, Mishra’s word for round two of the preliminary, was practiced on his flight to Washington. “It feels good when you know something, so you know you can’t get out (of the competition),” Mishra said. The word refers to a condition associated with schizophrenia.

Before he was eliminated, Mishra said the written test earlier in the week contained “a couple really hard ones (words), I’m sure every speller can say that.

“But,” he added. “So far in the oral round, not so much.”

Only those spellers with the highest combined vocabulary test and oral spelling scores advance each round. “Last year I came pretty close,” Mishra said. “I was off by two points.”

The semifinals begin Thursday, followed by another computer-based vocabulary test. Spellers can expect any of more than 470,000 words in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary – far more words than any list the spellers have seen.

Mishra said he plans to enjoy the rest of his time in the Washington, D.C., area and prepare to try again in 2015.