PALM DESERT, Calif. - Palm Desert Charter Middle School eighth-grader Katie Peterson was eliminated today from the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md., when she stumbled on the word "totipotency."
After completing computer-based spelling and vocabulary tests Tuesday, Katie today correctly spelled "kirtle," which means a man's tunic or coat or a woman's dress or skirt.
But in round three, she missed "totipotency," which means the ability to regenerate body parts.
Katie was one of 281 students competing in the famed bee at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. This year marked the first time the competition included vocabulary questions.
"It represents a deepening of the bee's commitment to its purpose -- to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop English usage that will help them all their lives," according to Paige Kimble, the bee's executive director and its 1981 champion.
Katie is 14, the president of her school's Renaissance Leadership class and a former president of its California Junior Scholarship Federation chapter. Her favorite subject is science and she wants to be a surgeon when she grows up.
The bee is limited to students in eighth grade or below, with contestants ranging in age from 8 to 14 years old.
The field consists of students who won locally sponsored bees in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, along with American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Department of Defense schools in Europe.
Seven foreign nations are also represented -- the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.
The winner of the bee will receive $30,000 from Scripps, which owns television stations and newspapers; a $2,500 U.S. savings bond and complete reference library from the dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster; and $2,000 in reference works from Encyclopaedia Britannica.
The semifinal and championship rounds will be held Thursday, with a contestant eliminated after he or she misspells a word.
Rounds two and three can be seen on the broadband network ESPN3.com 5-8:45 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.-3:15 p.m. ESPN2 will carry the semifinals from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday. The championship finals will be on ESPN from 5-7 p.m. Thursday.
Throughout the entire competition, ESPN3.com will carry a second "play along" version, where viewers will have the option to view coverage without seeing the word until the last second so they can test their spelling skills against the champion spellers.
This is ESPN's 20th year of covering the bee.
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