Julissa Negron in the semifinals at Scripps Spelling Bee


Julissa Negron made to the semifinals at the Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 31, 2023.

Roscoe's Julissa Negron was one of 56 remaining spellers in the semifinals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, MD, in the 6th round.

Julissa almost spelled "garnett" correctly, but added an extra "e" at the end. The word means "to remove foreign substances from (fiber) or to reduce (textile waste) to fiber by passing through a machine provided with a steel ribbon with teeth." In the end, she tied for 22nd place. 

Dev Shah, a 14-year-old speller from Largo, Florida, became the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion when he correctly spelled “psammophile” in the 15th round.

Besides a commemorative medal and a $500 gift card, Julissa won a one-year subscription to Encyclopædia Britannica Online Premium and Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary Online. She will also receive a 2023 U.S. Mint proof set, given by Jay Sugarman in honor of his father, and a prize package, including Bee souvenirs and an official certificate of participation.

After the round, her father Julio told us, "We are very proud of her. She's amazing!" Next year, she will be a freshman at Hononegah Community High School.

For the rest of the week, the Negron family can look forward to another session of "Camp Bee," a trip to the National Mall, and several educational sessions. Bee Week concludes with the awards ceremony and a farewell party on Friday.

Wednesday night brought a keynote presentation by Jason Reynolds, #1 New York Times bestselling author and the Library of Congress’ national ambassador for young people’s literature. On the schedule for Thursday morning: "Demystifying the Digital SAT" sponsored by the College Board, and a talk by 2021 champion Zaila Avant-garde, author of “It’s Not Bragging If It’s True” and “Words of Wonder from Z to A,” followed by a book signing with Zaila. 

More about the National Spelling Bee

At the National Spelling Bee, Roscoe teen moves ahead to the semifinals

Julissa Negron advances to the quarterfinals at National Spelling Bee

Julissa Negron sails through first two rounds of Scripps Spelling Bee

Roscoe Middle School's Julissa Negron heads for National Spelling Bee

Julissa Negron is on her way to Scripps Spelling Bee in Washington DC

Roscoe's Avani Joshi ties for 7th place in National Spelling Bee

A familiar team oversaw the event, including pronouncer and classics professor Dr. Jacques Bailly, head judge and retired educator Mary Brooks (who rang the dreaded bell but then warmly encouraged Julissa with a speech), and associate pronouncer and Greek Orthodox priest Dr. Brian Sietsema.

Preparing to take the plunge and spell the word, Julissa asked Dr. Bailly several questions. As many competitors did, she also strategically wrote the word in her palm with her finger. Dr. Bailly said it was a verb and asked for the language of origin, told her it probably came from a proper noun. That was bad news, because without a language of origin, guessing the correct spelling is harder, according to broadcast commentator Paul Loeffler, who competed in the Bee himself.

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Earlier on Wednesday, in the multiple-choice word meaning round,  Julissa correctly recognized that "Another word for notional is:" "theoretical." Seventeen contestants were eliminated in that round. 

The semifinals are tough at the National Spelling Bee. At one point in the round, 28 spellers had been eliminated while only 17 were advancing to the finals, with 11 more on deck. Weeks ago, spellers were given an online spelling test, which didn't count in the competition, but allowed officials to properly level the questions.

Several semifinalists had been to the National Spelling Bee before in previous years, some of them three times or more. Overall, 49 of the 229 spellers are repeat competitors at Scripps National Spelling Bee, 14 of them for the third time. Eligibility continues until the end of 8th grade and some spellers begin competing in 3rd grade.

The semifinal spelling round began at 1:30 p.m on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. Students were called to the mic in alphabetical order of state or country, so since she's from Illinois, Julissa was 18th out of 56. Of the original fourteen spellers from Illinois, only two advanced to rounds 7 and 8: Khadijah Abdul-Rahman from Decatur and Daphne Gil from Vernon Hills.

Annette Chu of Chicago was the fourth Illinoisan in the semifinals, along with Julissa. She was originally eliminated because she spelled "dustoori" when the judges expected "dasturi."  But in a dramatic announcement after the spelling round, chief judge Mary Brooks announced that since they had discovered an alternate form of the word, Annette was reinstated and called back to the stage for the word meaning round. However, all the remaining Illinois students were eliminated by the next two rounds. Of the 11 spellers advancing to the finals, three are sponsored by the San Ramon Valley Rotary Club in northern California.

Since the first National Spelling Bee in 1925, Illinois students have only won twice. In 1931, Ward Randall of White Hall, Illinois correctly spelled "foulard." In 1985, Balu Natarajan of Chicago correctly spelled "milieu."

Click, tap, or swipe on the photo below to view an image gallery of Julissa's semifinal spelling round.

More News from Roscoe
Speller 62 Julissa Negron competes in the semifinals of the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, MD, on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. Photo: E. M. Pio Roda / Scripps National Spelling Bee.
The word is "garnett" as Julissa ponders its spelling.
Chief pronouncer Dr. Jacques Bailly gives a hint to Julissa: the word is a verb.
Julissa Negron made to the semifinals at the Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 31, 2023.
Julissa listens as chief judge Mary Brooks tells her that she is an inspiration.
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