Simone Kaplan may not have won the Scripps National Spelling Bee after making it to the finals Thursday night — but the 12-year-old Davie girl definitely left her mark on the competition.
"For those who have been following, Simone Kaplan has become this week's bee fashion icon," read a tweet on the Spelling Bee's official Twitter account.
Simone, who never appears on stage without wearing a bumblebee motif, be it on her shoes or a shirt, spelled her way into the finals of the Bee, but misspelled carmagnole (street dance during the time of the French Revolution) in the finals that aired Thursday night on ESPN.
She was one of 16 finalists to compete in the live broadcast, culled from more than 11 million students who began the school year vying to make it to the national championship. The winner was eighth-grader Karthik Nemmani from Texas who won with the word, koinonia, a Greek word meaning fellowship.
Earlier Thursday, Simone said she was thrilled to have made it past the top 30.
"I think it's amazing. I've only watched it from the audience or on TV and now I am here," said Simone, a sixth-grader at St. Bonaventure Catholic School in Davie.
Simone, who in March won the 78th Annual Miami Herald Spelling Bee in Broward with the word aioli, made it to the finals after nearly 500 others were eliminated during the preliminaries.
This was her second trip to the national Bee. Last year, she tied for 189th place, missing the word juridical (related to the law or judicial proceedings.) She spelled it juritical.
This year she studied even harder, she said.
"I feel like a detective. You use the clues they give you and put them together to get the word right," she said.
Her most challenging word to get to the finals? Draegerman, in the eighth round, which means "a miner, usually a member of a special crew, trained in underground emergency and rescue work," according to Merriam-Webster.
She said she struggled with the "ae" because that's not normally seen in German.
The other words she spelled correctly in her seven preliminary rounds: Rachel (the name); abbot (the superior of a monastery for men); freddo (cold, passionless); Locarno (a commune in Switzerland); bathysmal (related to the deeper parts of the sea) and cyrtosis (a viral disease of cotton).
When the live broadcast began, the smiling pre-teen took her seat among the group and was the third speller to take the microphone. After she heard the word — carmagnole — she asked all the possible questions including definition and language of origin. She began spelling the word and stopped one letter too short — leaving the e off the end.
When she heard the bell, she said: "Ok, thank you, bye," before turning around and speaking to her fellow contestants, wearing a light blue dress emblazoned with bees: "Good luck to the rest of you."
Vasundara Govindarajan, 14, an eighth-grader at Frank C. Martin International K-8 Center in southwest Miami-Dade, was eliminated after round 3. She missed being a finalist by two points, her dad said Thursday.
This was Vasundara's third and final national competition, which stops after eighth grade. She had won the Miami Herald Spelling Bee in Miami-Dade four years in a row.
"I'm kind of sad, but I know I have to move on from this,'' Vasundara said. "It's been really fun. I've learned a lot. It was definitely worth it."