Miami girl has chance to make it to spelling bee final

Vasundara Govindarajan, the Miami 13-year-old in her second time in the finals, correctly spelled curfuffle (a Scottish Gaelic word meaning fuss, commotion) to make it to the second round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Wednesday.

For all those spellers out there — curfuffle is a variation of kerfuffle, according to Merriam-Webster — and both spellings are correct.

Meanwhile, the 11-year-old girl from Davie, Simone Kaplan, was eliminated for misspelling the word “juridical” (related to law or judicial proceedings.) Simone and her mother, Alana Kaplan, hugged and talked briefly before they left the ballroom of National Harbor’s Gaylord Hotel after the St. Bonaventure Catholic School student misspelled the word.

By the end of the second round on Wednesday afternoon, 32 spellers had been eliminated out of 291 vying for the national title. The spellers range from 6 to 15 years old and come from all 50 U.S. states, along with the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the U.S. Department of Defense schools in Europe. (There are also 11 spellers from the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea —the result of international sponsorships.)

By 6 p.m. Wednesday, the spellers who will advance to Thursday’s finals will be announced on ESPN3 (the ESPN app) and will be posted on spellingbee.com. No more than 50 spellers will advance; they will be graded according to written spelling and vocabulary tests and the oral spelling presentations on Wednesday.

Vasundara, a seventh-grader at Archimedean Middle Conservatory in Kendale Lakes, appeared to have difficulties as she thought about how to spell “curfuffle.’’ The moment she started the word by saying “c”, her family — father, mother and brother — slapped their foreheads, thinking she had misspelled the word.

Vasundara's family reacts after she began her spelling wiht c

Her brother, Vaidya, who tied for ninth place in the national Bee in 2010 and finished 10th in 2012, stood up and was on his way to meet his sister, assuming she would be leaving the stage in defeat, only to hear the judge say “correct.”

Shock, excitement and relief engulfed the family as they looked up the word on Vaidya’s phone. Vasundara’s mother, Sujatha, buried her face in her hands.

Vasundara's parents glowed in joy as they realized their daughter was right

The two South Florida spellers got off to a good start Wednesday morning. Both passed the second round Wednesday morning without much ado.

“F-i-b-u-l-a, fibula, Simone Kaplan, Speller No. 13, declared, without asking for any additional information. (Fibula is the outer and usually smaller of the two bones between the knee and ankle in the hind or lower limbs of vertebrates, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the official dictionary used by the competition.

“I’m sure of it,” said Simone after the round. “I wasn’t really nervous when I spell.”

Vasundara, on the other hand, took time to ask for her word’s language of origin, definition, part of speech and usage in a sentence, then spelled the word with her finger on the palm of her hand before she slowly, one letter at a time, spelled “embezzlement.”

That is her routine for every word she spells so that she doesn’t make any mistakes, she said in an interview after the round.

As the spellers spelled, many parents watched intently, bit their nails or prayed. Cheers broke out from time to time after spellers nailed a word, followed by sighs when a word was misspelled.

Alana Kaplan, Simone’s mother, said she closed her eyes when her daughter spelled on the stage. Kaplan held Simone’s stuffed owlet, a prize from the Miami-Herald Broward Spelling Bee, which Simone won to advance to the nationals.

simon'e parents closes their eyes as her daughter spells

“It’s like a good-luck charm,” her mother said.

Muthiah Govindarajan, Vasundara’s father and coach, was pleased with his daughter’s performance, but admitted that he was stressed.

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