But Sukanya couldn't be beat. She said she knew every word that was given to her — never having to guess — the result of her months of going through the dictionary twice from start to finish.
One of the new twists at this year's bee: Some semifinalists got to see ESPN's feature profiles of themselves on a big screen while they were airing on television. It might have seemed like a distraction, but it actually served to ease the tension. Grace Remmer of St. Augustine, Fla., giggled during the semifinals as she watched herself enjoying Disney World — then calmed down and approached the microphone, where she correctly spelled "anaphylaxis."
The bee continued to exhibit a sense of humor in the sentences used by pronouncer Jacques Bailly. He used a "set of prison bars for the name Bernie Madoff" in his example for "brachygraphy" in the semifinals and later made a reference to the "The Jeffersons," a TV sitcom that went off the air some 10 years before the oldest of the spellers was born. In the finals there was the ice breaker: "The spellers' exsufflation at spelling the word correctly blew people's hair back in the front row."
The week began with 275 spellers. A written test Tuesday and two oral rounds Wednesday reduced the field for the semifinals.
The bee began the finals by remembering its first two champions. With Jeopardy uber-champion Ken Jennings and eight former winners in the house, the bee paid tribute to Frank Neuhauser and Pauline Bell, who both died in their 90s recently. Neuhauser won in 1925 with the word "gladiolus" and Bell won in 1926 with the "cerise," so bee officials placed an arrangement of cerise-colored gladioli at the base of the trophy pedestal onstage.
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP
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