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Shelbina, MO, Eighth Grader Reaches National Spelling Bee Semifinals [Updated]

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Platz, spelling. Speller 134 has reason to look so pissy; she made the semifinals and he did not.
Updated June 7: For those of you who missed the Spelling Bee finals (and you are absolved; the Stanley Cup Finals are providing some fabulous entertainment this year): Platz tied for second! She lasted eight rounds before finally falling to the mighty "rhytidome", which she spelled with an "o" instead of the "i".

Webster's rather cryptically defines rhytidome as "the bark external to the last formed periderm." Encyclopaedia Britannica clarifies that this is a sort of plant tissue.

The eventual winner, Anamika Veeramani, made it through the round with "juvia," the tree that produces Brazil nuts.

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If you are the nerdiest of the word-nerds, this week is your Super Bowl. Who gives a crap about the NBA or NHL finals? (Well, apparently nobody outside of the four cities involved.) It's the week of the Scripps National Spelling Bee!

243 young spellers descended upon Washington, DC, earlier this week and, after two tense days, Missourian Elizabeth Platz has reached the semifinals. On Wednesday, she passed the qualifying test and yesterday she successfully spelled "fête" and "fennec." (A fête is a French party. A fennec, says Webster's, is "a small pale-faced African fox with large ears." No word on whether Platz had to mention the circumflex when she spelled fête.)

Today at 10 a.m. Eastern, Platz and the other 47 semifinalists will take the stage for the semifinals. You can watch it all on ESPN, because spelling is a totally extreme sport. If Platz makes the finals, you can watch her at 7 p.m. on ABC.

(This is such a big deal they got Chris Harrison of The Bachelor to host and Erin Andrews to do on-the-ground reporting. Can they spell? Who cares? Chris can supervise rose ceremonies and wrangle spurned suitors and Erin can dance. What more do you need?)

Platz, 13, hails from Shelbina, a small town about 70 miles north of Columbia, where she is home-schooled. This is her second trip to the National Spelling Bee.

Her official Spelling Bee bio reports:

Elizabeth enjoys reading, creative writing and poetry. She has written her first fictional book based on a group of friends who discover and help save a secret world, and she is planning to write several sequels. Elizabeth's favorite book is Webster's Third New International Dictionary [coincidentally, the official dictionary of the National Spelling Bee]. She also enjoys drawing, painting and music. Elizabeth aspires to have a career in fine arts, utilizing her writing and drawing skills. She and her brother have an extensive Beanie Babies collection.


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