Written test spells elimination for Silver Stage competitor

No matter how you spell it, Cheyenne Sorenson will return home to Nevada a winner.

Cheyenne, a Silver Stage Middle School eighth-grader and the Silver State's lone representative to the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, was eliminated from the competition Thursday, tripped up by words people might never utter in a lifetime.

Ever heard of a pinyin?

Perhaps you might feel a sense of avarice today.

If you do, you might want to eat a beignet to calm your nerves.

Those were some of the words presented to Cheyenne and nearly 300 competitors as they arrived for the national competition earlier this week.

Competitors were asked to complete a 50-word written test, of which 25 of those words were graded.

Cheyenne misspelled 11 of the 25 graded words, her mother Brenda said, effectively eliminating the Silver Stage eighth-grader from the competition. Competitors had to get at least 17 words correct to advance to the next round.

Cheyenne is the first Silver Stage student to represent Nevada in the bee. She bested competitors from much larger schools around the state to advance to the national competition.

"I'm just thrilled that she got this far," Brenda Lawrence said. "She's been amazing through this and has been so upbeat. She's taking it like a champ."

Cheyenne was given the chance to orally spell one word - rigatoni - in front of the judges. That in itself presented a challenge, Cheyenne said.

She's heard the word, she said, but has never seen or eaten the cylindrical-shaped pasta common in Italian suppers.

She asked for the origin of the word and for a definition before spelling the word correctly.

She wasn't the only one who was stumped.

"People were asking every possible question they could ask" during the initial oral round, she said.

Cheyenne said she plans to watch the finals today and cheer on competitors, many of whom she now considers friends.

"I'm OK right now," she said. "I'd like to cheer on the other spellers. I know this was my first and last experience, and I know there will be a lot of things to look forward to after that," she said.

While in the nation's capital, Cheyenne and her mother visited Arlington National Cemetery, the National Air and Space museum and Georgetown, though Brenda said she and her daughter are ready to come home to Nevada, and to Cheyenne's classmates and teachers at Silver Stage Middle School.

"I know they'll still be proud of me," Cheyenne said of her school family.

• Contact City Editor David Mirhadi at dmirhadi@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1261.

The 25 graded words on the written test administered to competitors during the initial round of the 2008 Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. Competitors had to correctly spell 17 to advance in the competition.

cygnet

sinecure

midriff

altogether

intermittence

Pyrrhic

illegible

eidetic

Appaloosa

galimatias

Caribbean

beignet

tremolo

cacoëthes

guernsey

pinyin

homage

harassment

mustard

syringe

miscible

avarice

loquacity

nonpareil

epilepsy

Source: Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee

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