Naomi Zarin, the Maine State Spelling Bee champion from Gray, correctly spelled both her onstage words Wednesday at the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee but fell a few points short of joining 40 semifinalists who remain in the annual competition, which concludes Thursday evening in National Harbor, Maryland.

An eighth-grader at the Friends School of Portland, Zarin was the first of 291 spellers to approach the microphone Wednesday morning and receive a word from pronouncer Jacques Bailly. She spelled “tarsier” – a small nocturnal animal of the Malay Archipelago with large round eyes, long legs and a long, nearly hairless tail.

Tarsier was among a list of 400 study words sent to all spellers advancing to the national finals.

All words in the afternoon round came not from a study list but from Webster’s Third Dictionary. Zarin spelled “triceratops” – a large herbivorous dinosaur with three horns, a bony hood or crest on the neck, and hoofed toes.

Zarin earned three points each for her correct spellings Wednesday. She also earned 20 points on a preliminary test Tuesday consisting of 24 written spelling and multiple-choice vocabulary items divided into four sections.

The cutoff score for advancing to Thursday morning’s semifinals, however, was 29 out of 36. Zarin finished with 26.

Any contestant who spelled incorrectly in either of Wednesday’s rounds was eliminated. That left 188 eligible to be among no more than 50 spellers, as determined by total scores, to advance to Thursday’s semifinal round, to be broadcast on ESPN2 at 10 a.m. Finals are scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Among the other 148 who spelled both oral words correctly Wednesday but did not advance to the semifinals was the youngest contestant in bee history to reach the nationals, 6-year-old Edith Fuller of Oklahoma.

Zarin is the two-time Cumberland County champion who won the state bee in March after 42 rounds and nearly three hours.

The only other Mainer at the National Bee, Penobscot County champion Neil St. John of Bangor, is an eighth-grader who was eliminated in the morning round after missing “polygynous” – relating to the practice of having more than one wife or female mate.

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or:

[email protected]

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