Two of the five Minnesota students competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee Wednesday did well enough in the preliminary rounds to advance to the semifinal round which begins Thursday morning.
Max Meyer, 13, of Shorewood, is a seventh grader at Minnetonka Middle School East. He correctly spelled "oolong" (a traditional Chinese tea) and "troglobiont" (an animal living in or restricted to caves, especially one occurring in the lightless waters of caves) in the first two rounds.
Christine Farnberg, 13, of Byron, is in the eighth grade at Holy Spirit School in Rochester. She correctly spelled "kuruma" (a Japanese cart or vehicle) and "budgerigar" (a common pet parakeet) in the first two rounds.
Nearly 300 contestants faced off Wednesday in the preliminary round of the nation's premier spelling showdown in Washington D.C.
Meyer and Farnberg were two of the 50 semifinalists who remained in the competition at the end of the day.
Competitors also took a written spelling and vocabulary test before the live rounds began, which was included in the calculation of their scores.
The spellers are vying not only for scholastic glory, but also some serious prizes: $35,000 in cash, a $2,500 savings bond from Merriam-Webster, and more than $1,000 worth of reference materials from Encyclopaedia Britannica.
The semifinal round begins at 9 a.m. CDT Thursday (it'll air on ESPN2), and the Championship Finals are from 7 p.m.-9 p.m. CDT Thursday night, according to the event's website. The final round will air on ESPN.
Five Minnesotans also competed in the spelling bee last year. One of them, 13-year-old Mark Kivimaki, made it past the preliminaries before being eliminated in the sixth round.