OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — Fifty semifinalists have taken the stage at the National Spelling Bee.

The competitors include the sister of the 2009 winner and two five-time participants.

Unlike the preliminary rounds, spellers who get words wrong are hearing the dreaded bell that signals it’s time to leave the stage.

There’s no set number of finalists, but organizers are aiming for between 10 and 15.

Among the favorites is 10-year-old Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kan. Her sister, Kavya, won the Scripps National Spelling Bee three years ago. Vanya was the only speller to earn a perfect score in the preliminary rounds.

Apolonia Gardner of Imperial, Calif., was the first speller eliminated, misspelling “phalarope.”

Thursday’s semifinals are being broadcast on ESPN2. The finals are Thursday evening on ESPN.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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