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National Spelling Bee contestant Dawn Anderson awaits word on her progress with her father, Air Force Maj. Christopher Anderson, after the first verbal round, in which Dawn properly spelled “Sikhism.” Dawn had spelled 12 of 25 correct on her written test, and came up one point shy of being advanced to the next round. Dawn is a sixth-grader at Patch Elementary School in Stuttgart, Germany.
National Spelling Bee contestant Dawn Anderson awaits word on her progress with her father, Air Force Maj. Christopher Anderson, after the first verbal round, in which Dawn properly spelled “Sikhism.” Dawn had spelled 12 of 25 correct on her written test, and came up one point shy of being advanced to the next round. Dawn is a sixth-grader at Patch Elementary School in Stuttgart, Germany. (Patrick J. Dickson / S&S)

WASHINGTON — It wasn’t the glare of the lights this time, but a new written test that got her.

Dawn Anderson, the Department of Defense Dependents Schools entrant, was eliminated from the National Spelling Bee in the first round.

The 11-year-old sixth-grader at Patch Elementary School in Stuttgart, Germany, returned to Washington, D.C., this week to participate in the 77th annual Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee, her second.

Dawn was bounced in the first round last year on “emmeleia,” a Greek word for a fitting of dance to the content in a play.

This time she got her “oral round” word correct: Sikhism, the religion or practices of the Sikhs, found in India and elsewhere.

She was happy she’d got one she knew.

“I was really happy because I knew that word, but I asked the definition just to make sure” it was the same word, and not a sound-alike, she said.

Dawn traveled to Washington with her dad, Air Force Maj. Christopher Anderson, a logistics officer at European Command headquarters in Stuttgart, her mom, Kil Sun, a homemaker, and her brother Eric, 10, and sister, Becky, 8.

She worried her score of 12 out of 25 on the written test might not be enough, but Dawn had to wait until after the first oral round to find out.

With words like “chresard,” “boeotian” and “rijsttafel,” many struggled.

Only 94 kids survived that round. Anderson was one point shy of advancing.

“I was kinda disappointed,” Dawn said. “Some of them I had right — they gave us five sheets of paper to work them out — but then I changed them [on the final paper].”

She planned on blowing off steam by heading to the hotel swimming pool with one of her friends. The champion was to be determined on Thursday.

The family flies back to Germany on Saturday.

Maj. Anderson laughed when asked whether his daughter would be participating next year at their new assignment location, Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

“That’s all up to her; she’s got so many interests, her music, and math is her first love, but she’s so competitive, it’s hard for her to hold herself back.”

He expressed disappointment for his daughter, but “we’ll keep our heads up — she’s a trouper.”

Where even dictionaries fear to tread

Want to know just how from-another-planet-smart these kids are?

From my comfortable seat in the audience, I thought I'd take the challenge and spell right along with them. I figured I would miss some they got, get some they missed, and come out with a respectable six or seven out of 10. I wrote in my notepad as the official reader quizzed them:

Sinology. Wrong. It's cynology.

Larrican. Sorry. It's larrikin.

Feral. Wrong. Ferrule.

So the kids are up 3-0. No sweat.

Vondva. No. It's Dvandva. Hey, I didn't hear that one clearly.

Ouverry. Wrong. It's houvari. Not even close. Hey, this one's not even in my dictionary, and the only place I see it online is ... on Web sites for spelling contests!

Cecile. Nope. It's Sessile. Not my fault the guy can't spell his name.

Anaptixious. But of course, it's anaptyxis. I'm like, the William Hung of spelling.

What's that — Oh-for-seven? OK. Time to focus.

Chatacoly. A classical dance drama of Kerala, South India, it's one of the oldest art forms in the world. But it's kathakali. How could I have been so stupid?

Phermier. Kid got it right. I got it wrong. It's fermiere. Did he just laugh at me?

Canassa. Is that a card game? But it's Canossa. It means "to humble oneself." Yeah, I'm all about that.

OK, a Derek Jeter-like 0-for-10. But I'm just getting warmed up.

Vinacious. Crap! It's vinaceous.

Quadlivet. Wrong. It's quodlivet. I think the dictionary's wrong on this one.

Perergon. Nope; it's parergon. Just missed, again.

Corigendum. Sounded simple, but it was corrigendum. I swear these kids are pointing at me and laughing.

Behrschunt. Now I'm laughing. Didn't have a clue. It's bergschrund. Whatever, Mr. Speller Dude.

Inchoate. Got it! I-N-C-H-O-A-T-E. On No. 16, I got it! IN YOUR FACE, 12-year-old Sam Rock of Minneapolis! Oh ... he got it right, too ...

These kids are good ...

— Pat Dickson

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