Two-time Nevada spelling champion Dakota Jones cleared the first semifinal elimination round of the 84th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday morning.
Dakota, a 14-year-old eighth grade student at Hyde Park Middle School in Las Vegas, will move on to a second semifinal elimination round Thursday.
The competition, which is taking place about eight miles outside Washington, D.C., is being broadcast live on ESPN until 10 a.m. PDT Thursday.
For those watching, Dakota was featured in the show’s opening promotion where he announced: “This is our moment.”
Wearing a long-sleeved, blue-striped shirt, Dakota sat patiently for just under an hour as 20 other competitors took their turn in the first round of the semifinals.
Of those, 18 had survived to the next elimination round correctly spelling words that would stump most computer spell checks, including: boutade, excrescential, mansuetude and lysozyme.
Dakota walked up to the microphone hoping to avoid the dreaded ding of the bell signaling a misspelling.
"Whirlicoat,” said Bee pronouncer Jacques Bailly.
Dakota checked his watch and asked Bailly for the definition of the word, which means a heavy luxurious carriage or coach.
He also asked for the language of origin and for it to be used in a sentence. After that, he again checked his watch – took a breath – and spelled “W-H-I-R-L-I-C-O-A-T.”
Dakota grinned as his moment passed with no “ding.”
His parents, Mike and Jamie, were watching from the audience. His dad catching the action on video and grinning widely at his son’s success.
Last year, Dakota bowed out after incorrectly spelling his first semifinal round word “tiralee,” meaning a succession of musical notes as in a bugle call.
Dakota is one of the 41 of 275 competitors who made it to the semifinals.
Dakota correctly spelled “recidivist” and “garibaldi” in Wednesday’s oral rounds and missed only one of 25 words on a written spelling test taken Tuesday – “monodomous,” meaning living as a community in a single nest. Competitors needed to spell both oral words correctly and get at least 23 correct spellings on the written exam to advance to the semifinals.