UPDATE: Boy from Walnut Creek, Calif., takes the title
Shelley Clark, the 13-year-old Tigard girl who won the 2007 Portland Tribune/Comcast Regional Spelling Bee, went out during the semifinals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., Thursday morning with the word "hussar."
After asking for alternative pronunciations and definitions, she spelled the word "huzzar" live on ESPN. The word is defined as a highway robber, or member of any various European military unit originally modeled on the Hungarian light cavalry of the 15th century.
Both Shelley and her mother, Rosalyn Newhouse, were visibly disappointed, hoping for a win.
'It's a lot of preparation and just that one moment, everything changes,' Newhouse said by phone from Washington, D.C. 'We've spent a lot of preparation to get this far and it really did pay off. This is a very tough bee and the kids have been dropping like flies. Getting to the semifinals is amazing. This is an achievement that very few kids make, and something she's going to be able to carry with her her whole life.'
After she left the competition in Round 5, 36 spellers remained. By the end of Round 6 later Thursday morning, only 15 made it into the finals that were broadcast Thursday night on ABC-KATU (Channel 2) at 8 p.m. EDT.
In the end, Evan O'Dorney from Walnut Creek, Calif., persevered in a four-round battle with Nate Gartke of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to win the national bee. O'Dorney spelled "serrefine" correctly to take the title.
He also won a $20,000 cash prize and an engraved trophy from Scripps; a $2,500 U.S. savings bond, a complete reference library and a $5,000 cash award and 50 reference works to the school or public library of their choice from Merriam-Webster; a $5,000 cash prize from LeapFrog; a $5,000 cash prize and the Spelling Ace Award from Franklin Electronic Publishers; a $5,000 scholarship from the Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation; and more than $3,800 in reference works from Encyclopaedia Britannica.
On Wednesday, after making it through the first three rounds of the competition, Clark secured a spot in the semis by correctly spelling "acuminate," which means pointed or tapering to a point, in the quarterfinal round.
Clark had passed a multiple choice spelling test Wednesday morning, scoring 21 out of a possible 25 points, and then spelled a word orally - "aggressive" - to move on to the next stage of the competition. Clark then correctly spelled "lenity" Wednesday afternoon to move on to the quarterfinals.
Katie Nye of Bend, Ore., was eliminated in the fourth round of the competition after she misspelled the word "encolure."
Clark, who correctly spelled "plumicorn" - a tuft of feathers near an owl's ears - to win the Portland area's fourth-annual regional bee, is appearing on the national spelling stage for her second and final year. She was eliminated in the third round of the national competition in 2006.
The 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee started Wednesday morning and runs through Thursday night.
Clark is home-schooled and attends the Village Home Education Resource Center in Beaverton.
While Clark's loss in the semifinals hit her hard, she'll soon be in the limelight on another national stage. Next week she heads to Columbus, Ohio, to compete in the rhythmic gymnastics Junior Olympics, her other passion.
Jennifer Anderson of the Portland Tribune contributed to this story.