NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Dylan Olster of Pembroke Pines delivered a perfect performance onstage at Wednesday’s Scripps National Spelling Bee, but fell short of advancing to Thursday’s semifinals.
Offstage, it was another matter. The 281 students who qualified for the spelling bee had taken a preliminary computer-based vocabulary and spelling test, and Dylan learned his score wasn’t high enough to join 46 others moving on.
“I studied a lot, but I wasn’t expecting what I saw [on the test],” said Dylan, 14, a Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School eighth-grader. “It was more difficult than I expected.”
He was one of two students sponsored by the Miami Herald to compete in this year’s contest at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in suburban Washington.
Dylan and Amber Robinson, 14, of Homestead, an eighth grader at Herbert A. Ammons Middle School, went up against students from around world, hoping to spell their way to victory.
During the onstage rounds, Dylan successfully spelled “pitchblende” and “Francophone.”
“I’m really happy I got this far,” he said. “It’s always hard to go on stage in front of all of the media and the audience. I pulled it off and it went well.”
Dylan’s family was there to reassure him after he learned that Wednesday would be his last day in the competition.
“I’m so proud of him and amazed he made it this far,” Lisa Olster said of her son, who for the past few months devoted almost 20 hours a week to preparing for the spelling bee.
Amber, who said she hopes to become a famous writer, breezed through her first word, “gourami,” but struggled to identify and spell “pelagial” — another word for oceanic — during the next round.
“I was completely clueless about the word, so I just tried to use the origin and figure something out,” she said. “ . . . I guess everyone dreams to win, but being here is pretty cool, too.”
Fifty-eight students misspelled words Wednesday, and 177 additional students were eliminated based on the computer-based test that felled Dylan. The remaining 46 students were scheduled to take a second computer-based test Wednesday evening, followed by two rounds of oral spelling onstage Thursday.
About a dozen spellers are expected to survive those rounds to reach the championship finals, which will be telecast Thursday evening on ESPN. At stake is the national title and more than $30,000 in prizes.
Dylan and Amber said they both plan to stick around for the semifinals Thursday to cheer on the remaining spellers.
“I’ll get to sit back, relax, just enjoy the week,” said Dylan.