National spelling champion Wes Underwood bowed out of competition at the 95th Scripps National Spelling Bee in the third round. He was given the word ruffage (the Archaic spelling) which means fibrous indigestible material in vegetable foodstuffs which aids the passage of food and waste products through the gut.
Wes, 13, spelled roughage, which also means indigestible, but the judges were looking for the Archaic spelling.
He correctly spelled Apabhramsa (literary language of the final phase of the Middle Indo-Aryan languages) and was among 172 advancing past the opening round from which 59 spellers were eliminated.
In round 2 Wes was given the word leguminous, which he described as “resembles or consists of peas or beans” and was among 139 spellers advancing past the word meaning round from which 32 spellers were eliminated.
Wes’ Scripps run came to an end in round three after he spelt the world ruffage as “roughage”. He was one of 19 spellers eliminated and finished the competition tied for 122nd place.
In the month lead-up to Scripps, the eighth-grade student at Samuel Guy Pinder All Age School had spoken of his excitement to be among the 231 spellers from all 50 United States, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Department of Defense Schools in Europe; and three countries outside the U.S. – The Bahamas, Canada and Ghana – who earned their spots.
Wes’ mother Natalia Underwood and his coach Bevil Clarke, worked with the teen who lives in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, to prepare him for the contest.
The Scripps Spelling Bee was held in the Washington, D.C., area at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in the National Harbor, Maryland.
The competition began with preliminaries on Tuesday, May 30 and concluded with the finals on Thursday, June 1.
Prior to Wes, The Bahamas was represented at Scripps by previous four-time national champion Roy Seligman, who set an impressive bar at Scripps. At the 93rd Scripps competition, in 2021, Roy was the first Bahamian to advance to the finals of the prestigious competition since The Bahamas began competing at Scripps in 1998.
Roy tied for fourth place with three other spellers.
His impressive run took place one year after Scripps was canceled in 2020 due to ongoing concerns about the spread of COVID-19. It was the first time the spelling bee had been canceled since World War II.
Island-nation wins at Scripps came from Hugh Tosteson García who was the first person from the Caribbean and outside of the continental United States to win the Scripps title. The Puerto Rican won the 48th Scripps title in 1975 with the correct spelling of “incisor”.
It would be 23 years before the feat was accomplished again in 1998 when Jamaican Jody-Anne Maxwell claimed the 71st Scripps title with the word “chiaroscurist”. She was also the first Black winner.