A Howard County speller's luck and skill ran out in the semifinal round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, held this week at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Oxon Hill.
Jack Nolan, 13, an eighth-grader at Mayfield Woods Middle School and the winner of the Howard County Library System Spelling Bee in March, misspelled "atopen" — an allergy-inducing agent — in the fifth round of competition Thursday afternoon.
Jack had successfully made his way through preliminary rounds — a written test and two oral rounds — correctly spelling "dichotomy" and "kalema," before moving on to round four, where he correctly spelled "ergastulum" — a Roman dungeon — in the semifinals Thursday morning.
Jack was one of 278 students from across the country to compete in the bee, held annually since 1925. He was one of only 50 semifinalists.
Jack had competed at the national bee before, in 2009, when he was a fifth-grader at Deep Run Elementary School, but didn't make it past the preliminary rounds.
Christie Lassen, public relations director of the Howard County Public Library System, said Jack's run in the competition was the farthest any Howard student ever advanced in the bee.
Jack said he was pretty excited that he had made it as far as he did; the 2012 bee was the first time he had made it to the televised rounds — which was the goal he had set for himself in the beginning.
"It was pretty cool that people from, I don't even know where, a lot of different places across the country and other countries, were watching me," he said.
With the excitement, however, came nerves.
"It's a little scary, and I was just trying to keep the tension inside," he said. "I don't know how I did it. I just sat there, trying to be calm on the outside, trying not to let the butterflies get out of my stomach."
The bee is only open to students in the eighth grade and lower, so Jack will not be able to compete any longer. He described the end of his spelling bee career as bittersweet.
"I wish I could come back again next year, but I can't," he said. "I'll just go to high school and figure out what I can do there instead."
This story has been updated.