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Thirteen-year-old Calvin Lau, of Schweinfurt Middle School in Germany, takes his turn at the microphone during the 78th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Thirteen-year-old Calvin Lau, of Schweinfurt Middle School in Germany, takes his turn at the microphone during the 78th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. (Patrick Dickson / S&S)

WASHINGTON — Sometimes the luck of the draw just plain works against you.

Calvin Lau, a 13-year-old Schweinfurt Middle School in Schweingfurt, Germany, was eliminated after the second round of the National Spelling Bee on Wednesday.

The word he tripped on? Upaithric.

Don’t look in a regular dictionary for this word; it’s not there.

Looking in “The Phrontistery — A Dictionary of Obscure Words,” however, one finds that it means “roofless; open to the sky.” Of course.

Other spellers who went before Calvin got words such as “zeitgeist” or “cytology.” Not exactly a walk in the park, but at least they’re in the dictionary.

Calvin’s dad, Sgt. 1st Class Frederic Lau, a master gunner with the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division, said he’s been working with his son since “he was a kid.”

“I really started with flash cards and stuff, and he started reading when he was really young.”

Calvin doesn’t read so much anymore, his dad said. What does he do?

“He does all the things … that 13-year-olds do.”

Calvin was eliminated after a 15-word written test that makes up the first round, and missing his word in the second round. Scores are calculated by combining the two rounds — one point each for the written words, and three points for getting the oral word.

“The written test sends your mind in a different direction,” Calvin noted.

Was he nervous at the microphone?

No, he said.

“He looked a little nervous to me,” his dad said.

Calvin was pretty laid back about the whole thing, despite the disappointment. Any advice for next year’s DODDS competitor?

“Try a little harder.”


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