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Manlius Pebble Hill School student advances at Scripps National Spelling Bee

Oxon Hill, Md. – Maja Cannavo, an eighth-grader at Manlius Pebble Hill School, is off to a perfect start today at the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee in suburban Washington, D.C.

Cannavo, 13, correctly spelled the word “coffle” when she was asked to go to the microphone and spell her first word before a room full of hundreds of spectators at the Gaylord National Resort at National Harbor.

Coffle (pronounced kof-el) is a noun that is defined as a group of slaves or animals chained together in a train.

Cannavo was among 266 contestants to advance to the third round of the national competition, which is broadcast live on ESPN3. Her group will begin spelling words at 3:15 p.m.

Cannavo advanced to the national spelling bee after she won The Post-Standard/WCNY Spelling Bee in February. That intense, 19-round competition lasted for almost 2 ½ hours.


Among the 15 spellers who did not make it past the first oral round today was a Central New Yorker – Philip Andrew Cummings, 14, of Oswego. He incorrectly spelled the word “douane” as “duan.” The word, pronounced dwan, is a noun for custom house. Cummings was the winner of a regional competition in Oswego County.

Update: 3:45 p.m.

Cannavo correctly spelled her second word in the oral competition this afternoon, keeping her eligible to advance to the next round Thursday.

She stepped to the microphone and asked for the definition of “mobiliary” (an adjective used to describe something of or relating to movable property or household furniture) before correctly spelling the word without hesitating.

From earlier today

Both Cannavo and Cummings began the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Tuesday with a computer-based test given to all 281 contestants. The test had 50 questions, including for the first time vocabulary words.

At the end of today’s oral competition, all of those who correctly spelled their words on stage today will be awarded six points. Those points will be added to points awarded for 12 spelling words and 12 vocabulary words from Tuesday’s test. The maximum test score is 30 points.

Scripps National Spelling Bee officials said no more than 50 contestants will advance, based on their scores, to the semifinal round which begins on Thursday.

This year’s competition includes competitors from eight countries, all 50 states, and the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Department of Defense Schools in Europe.

All participants will receive a minimum of a $100 VISA gift card, a Merriam-Webster dictionary and a commemorative coin set. The championship prizes for the winner include $30,000 cash, a $2,500 savings bond and $2,000 worth of reference works.

Paige Kimble, executive director of the spelling bee, said at a news conference today that most of the student participants are not in awe of the prizes.

“They are never talking about the prizes,” Kimble said. “All they’re talking about is being on ESPN. That’s the prize.”

One Central New Yorker has won the national spelling bee, which started in 1925 with nine contestants. Tim Kneale, of Onondaga, won in 1976 after correctly spelling “narcolepsy” in the final round.