Speller eliminated at national bee

Ian Bongalonta competes Wednesday in the preliminary rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.

Goose Creek teen Ian Bongalonta found the Scripps National Spelling Bee to be H-A-R-D.

Despite spelling two words correctly on Wednesday, Ian did not advance to the semifinal round of the Bee.

The field of 278 was narrowed to the top 50 for the semifinals, which air at 10 a.m. today on ESPN-2.

During the first round on Tuesday, Ian and 277 other youngsters took a computerized spelling test. Ian said he thought at that point he would be eliminated before the semifinals.

“That test was way harder than I expected,” said Ian, who was sponsored by The Post and Courier. “I knew then I wouldn’t make it.”

The test has 50 words, but only 25 of them count. The spellers do not know which words are for points.

Before announcing the 50 semi-finalists, bee director Paige Kimble said the preliminary round was more challenging this year. Last year, five contestants had perfect scores in preliminaries, but this year only one did. That contestant is Vanya Shivashankar, 10, of Olathe, Kansas, the younger sister of the 2009 national champion, Kayva Shivashankar.

To determine the semifinalists, the score on the written test is combined with the score from Rounds 2 and 3, during which each student spells one word on stage. Ian spelled both of his words — Jovicentric and hebdomad— correctly.

Ian, 14, a rising eighth-grader at Westview Middle School, won the Lowcountry Spellbound! competition on March 22.

He said he was happy to miss the last few days of school to go to the national contest in Washington D.C., which he had never visited.

The last time a speller from the Lowcountry made it to the semifinals was 2008. On Wednesday, all six of this year’s contestants from South Carolina were eliminated. The finals will air at 8 tonight on ESPN.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.facebook.com/brindge.