Runner-up in Bee final breezes through heaps of words

WASHINGTON — Canada’s Laura Newcombe came tantalizingly close to winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday, finishing second in the pressure-packed event in a field of hundreds of competitors.

Laura Newcombe

Laura Newcombe

WASHINGTON — Canada’s Laura Newcombe came tantalizingly close to winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday, finishing second in the pressure-packed event in a field of hundreds of competitors.

Newcombe, 12, a Toronto eighth-grader, faltered on the word “sorites,” misspelling it psorites.

She was one of only two diehard competitors left standing, of 13 finalists, when she was knocked out.

She lost to Sukanya Roy of Pennsylvania, who won on the word “cymotrichous.”

The poised and good-humoured Newcombe breezed through the first several rounds of the final, nailing the spellings of rapprochement, attacca, ingberlach, caciocavallo, cheongsam, huipil, pelerine, bourride, grison, panguingue and hooroosh with confidence.

Earlier Thursday, Newcombe and fellow Canadian Veronica Penny, 13, made it to the final, joining 11 other youngsters, all of them American, who were then challenged to spell words that would stump most adults.

The mind-benders included words like uayeb and furcocercous.

Penny was knocked out earlier Thursday night.

The competition was a nail-biter. It started out with 275 spellers, who were whittled down to 41 semi-finalists.

The tension was thick, and the crowd collectively sighed in pain as the various finalists were eliminated from the event as it aired live in American primetime on ESPN.

The heartbreak was compounded by the fact most competitors were stoic when eliminated; one boy swatted away his parents when they attempted to embrace him in comfort.

There was a definite Canadian flavour in the crowd, with Newcombe’s sister and grandparents waving small Canadian flags as the finals got under way.

Roy, 14, an eighth-grader at Abington Heights Middle School in South Abington Township, Pa., will receive more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.

It was the third appearance at the Bee for Roy, an only child who finished 12th and 20th in her previous appearances.

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