Olathe student advances to semifinals at Scripps National Spelling Bee

After two intense days of competition, three-time contestant Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe will advance to the final day of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

On Wednesday, four local spellers — Vanya, Meah Wilburn of Lee’s Summit, Evan Filer of Harrisonville and Sterling Hollond of Linwood, Kan. — entered etymological overdrive during the live-spelling rounds in the preliminary competition.

After two instant-elimination rounds and a harsh cut — from 239 live-spelling survivors to the top 42 contestants based on preliminary spelling and vocabulary test results — Vanya emerged as the sole semifinalist from the Kansas City area.

She survived the first live round by correctly spelling intaglio, defined by Scripps as “an engraving in stone.” She later correctly spelled horologium, which Scripps calls “a timepiece.” Her score on the test cemented her semifinals spot.

The next steps for her?

On Wednesday night, Vanya took a second computer-based spelling and vocabulary exam.

As in the preliminaries, the test accounted for 30 of the possible 36 points available for this leg of the competition. Misspelled or incorrect responses didn’t result in instant elimination.

The test marked the start of semifinals, which continue Thursday afternoon with competitors spelling words onstage for a chance at six additional points toward their semifinal score. Any misspelled word will jettison them from the bee.

While three other local competitors didn’t make the semifinal cut, they gave it a fighting shot.

Both Evan and Meah survived the live-spelling rounds.

Evan faced cachet, which Scripps called “a prestigious or distinctive quality,” and prevaricate, defined as to “lie” or “deviate from the truth.”

Meah conquered mihrab, which Scripps called “a niche in a mosque,” and Bauhaus, defined as being “of a certain German school of design.”

Their test scores, however, didn’t place them among those advancing.

And while Sterling correctly spelled diphthong in the first live-spelling round, he misspelled febrility.

One speller from Missouri, a boy named Gokul Venkatachalam from Chesterfield, also is advancing.

ESPN2 will broadcast Thursday afternoon’s live-spelling competition. The evening finals will be shown on ESPN.