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Syracuse spelling champ falls short at Scripps National Spelling Bee

Oxon Hill, Md. – Syracuse’s Maja Cannavo was perfect on stage today at the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee, but her total score fell short of the number needed to advance to the semifinal round on Thursday.

Cannavo, 13, an eighth-grader at Manlius Pebble Hill School, finished competition today with 29 points – three shy of the 32 points she needed to stay in the competition. Points were awarded in today’s oral rounds and for computer-based spelling and vocabulary tests all contestants took on Tuesday.

Only 42 of 281 contestants from across the nation and overseas made it to the semifinal round, which begins at 2 p.m. Thursday.

Cannavo, surrounded by her family after falling short of the cutoff, took it in stride and said she was thankful to represent Central New York as the winner of The Post-Standard/WCNY Spelling Bee.

Earlier in the day, she correctly spelled the words “coffle” and “mobiliary” while on stage before a live audience at the Gaylord National Resort at National Harbor in this Washington, D.C., suburb. The spelling bee was also broadcast live on ESPN3.

“I thought I got really easy words today,” said Cannavo, who studied from a list of 1,100 words for the first oral round, and went back to her room to study another 400 words before the next round.

Overall, Cannavo said she wouldn’t trade the experience for anything: “This was a lot more fun than I thought,” she said.

While studying her spelling words, Cannavo said, she had the distraction of studying for final exams at Manlius Pebble Hill School. She said her teachers allowed her to postpone two exams this week in order to participate in the spelling bee.

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

At the national contest today, 15 spellers were knocked out after the first round of oral competition. Among those was Philip Andrew Cummings, 14, of Oswego. The Oswego Middle School student incorrectly spelled the word “douane” as “duan.” The word is a noun for custom house.

Cannavo and Cummings will receive a $100 VISA gift card, a Merriam-Webster dictionary and a commemorative coin set for making it to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The championship prizes for the overall winner of the spelling bee include $30,000 cash, a $2,500 savings bond and $2,000 worth of reference works.