Las Vegas boy remains in competition at National Spelling Bee

Two-time Nevada spelling champion Dakota Jones cleared another hurdle in his quest to reach the finals of the 84th Scripps Howard Spelling Bee.

Dakota, a 14-year-old eighth grade student at Hyde Park Middle School in Las Vegas, correctly spelled “espando” to remain in the competition.

After 35 spellers cleared the first semifinal round earlier this morning, the second round of words seemed just a tad more difficult. By the time Dakota stood, five of 18 had fallen on words that included arrondi, selion and capilliculture.

As his turn came up, ESPN took a two-minute commercial break, leaving him to pace the stage anxiously with arms akimbo.

Once back on air, Dakota lowered the microphone and listen for his second word of the day.

“Espando,” said Bee pronouncer Jacques Bailly.

Once again, Dakota took his time to consider — seeking the definition for the word that is an alternative for swordfish. He also asked for the language of origin and for it to be used in a sentence.

After a pause, Dakota again asked for the language of origin — Latin to Italian to French — then spelled out “E-S-P-A-N-D-O.”

Dakota, who is sponsored by the Review-Journal, then offered a smile of relief. His parents, Mike and Jamie, sat smiling in the audience.

Another round may be held Thursday before the field of spellers is trimmed sufficiently for the finals that will be aired on ESPN starting at 5 p.m. PDT.

As way of introduction, ESPN earlier televised a brief video of Dakota taken at his home in Las Vegas. Among the takeaways was that Dakota really enjoys biology and learning “how things work.” He also enjoys food and knows how to whip up his own chocolate bundt cake.

Dakota also showed early signs of his supernal orthographic faculties as documented in a 1999 home video that showed a very young Dakota spelling the name of his sister Cassidy.

And, Dakota notes that Las Vegas is a “really big city” with an interesting Strip. He’s been down to see the water show at the Bellagio. “It’s really fun to watch,” he says.

This is the last year that Dakota is eligible to compete in the Bee. He will be attending high school next year at Northwest Career & Technical Academy in Las Vegas.

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