Glendale student in National Spelling Bee semifinals

An eighth-grade student at Eleanor J. Toll Middle School in Glendale will try to advance today during the semifinal round of the 83rd Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Jeremiah Bernal Cortez correctly spelled "copious" and "shanghaied" in the second and third rounds of the competition Thursday. Those answers, along with his score on a 50-word computerized test taken Wednesday, propelled him to the field of 50 semifinalists.

Two other Southland students, however, were eliminated.

Kenley Ku Farace, a seventh-grader at St. Margaret's Episcopal School in San Juan Capistrano, misspelled "cornice" and "cappelletti" during today's rounds. Mickey C. Shi, an eighth-grader at Chaparral Middle School in Diamond Bar, correctly spelled "debacle" and "realgar," but failed to earn enough points during Wednesday's computerized test to advance.

The semifinal round will begin at 7 a.m. California time today and be shown live on ESPN. A contestant is generally eliminated when he or she misspells a word. The championship round will begin at 5 p.m. California time and will be shown on ABC on a tape-delayed basis on the West Coast beginning at 8 p.m.

The bee is limited to students in eighth grade or below, with this year's contestants ranging in age from 8 to 15, with 80 percent between the ages of 12 to 14.

English is not the first language of 21 spellers and 102 spellers speak languages other than English.

Cortez, 14, loves to read books, especially of the science fiction genre. His favorite author is Harry Turtledove. In his spare time he practices fencing and enjoys playing video games. He is considering careers in business or finance.

The winner of the spelling bee will receive $30,000 from Scripps, which owns television stations and newspapers, a $5,000 scholarship from the Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond from the dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster, and reference works from Encyclopaedia Britannica valued at $2,700.

Southern California has produced only one champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which began in 1925 – Anurag Kashyap of Poway, the 2005 winner.