NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. - Two Cleveland area spellers cracked the top 50 at the Scripps National Spelling Bee Thursday but they were tripped up by some obscure-sounding words that knocked them out of the finals.
Sunny Levine, 13, of Medina, Ohio and Vishnu Nistala, 12, of Mentor, both finished tied for 42nd.
Sunny, an eighth grader at Claggett Middle School in Medina, missed the word "polos" (a tall cylindrical headdress) in the fifth round. In earlier rounds, she had correctly spelled "bacitracin" (an antibiotic), "mistassini" (she knew how it was spelled and that it was a dwarf primrose) and "dermotactile" (sensitivity of the skin).
At school Sunny excels in science and is a member of her school's Science Olympiad team. She is also a performer -- - she enjoys singing, doing magic tricks and being in shows. She is a member of the school drama club and recently played the Cheshire Cat in the musical Alice in Wonderland Jr. Sunny is a skilled balloon twister, budding magician and entrepreneur who can make over 500 balloon sculptures.
Vishnu, an eighth grader at Mentor Middle School, also dropped out in the fifth round when he missed araphorostic (seamless). He had correctly spelled "cataphract" (a form of armor), "blitzkrieg," and "stratification" in previous rounds.
Vishnu is passionate about aviation engineering. He spends most of his free time drawing, designing and building model airplanes. He draws his designs by freehand or uses 3D modeling and then uploads his creations to YouTube.
This year's bee began with 278 spellers. Participants included the youngest recorded speller ever to compete in the national bee - 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison of Woodbridge, Va., who didn't make the semifinals - and spellers from Japan, New Zealand and Ghana.
This year's champion will claim $30,000, a $5,000 scholarship and other prizes. ESPN will broadcast the finals.
Gannett Washington Bureau