New spelling champ to be chosen

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(CNN) — After successfully navigating past oodles of tricky words such as “mercerize,” “grobian” and “stabilimeter,” fewer than four dozen schoolchildren remained in the running Thursday to be named champion of the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The annual contest, which wraps up Thursday night, offers the winner a healthy dose of classroom cred, $32,500 in cash and savings bonds, a trophy and a library of reference materials.

Forty-two participants made it through to Thursday afternoon’s semifinal round, and more than 12 of them are expected to advance to the final round Thursday night.

The first elimination came with the first contestant of Thursday afternoon’s session.

Arizona seventh-grader Christopher O’Connor got “pultaceous” wrong.

“Awww,” he said as the bell signaling his mistake sounded, according to an entry on the bee’s official blog.

Eleven million schoolchildren participated in preliminaries leading up to the national contest this week. Of those, 281 children made the trip to Oxon Hill, Maryland, just outside Washington, for the national bee.

Among them were 63 children who had been to at least one national bee before, and had to prepare for some changes in the rules for this year’s events.

For the first time, participants had to demonstrate proficiency in vocabulary in addition to spelling.

Organizers also added an additional computer test for the semifinals, imposed time limits on computer-based spelling and vocabulary tests and added a rule that resulted in automatic elimination for any participant who misspelled a word on stage in the second or third rounds.

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