David Phan's Scripps National Spelling Bee dream ended with "ocypode."
Round seven began Thursday afternoon with 18 spellers vying for a spot. David, a recent graduate of Nevin Platt Middle School in Boulder who's sponsored by the Camera, went third. He incorrectly added an "a" at the end of "ocypode" -- the scientific name for ghost crabs.
"I thought I spelled it right for all five seconds until I heard the bell," said David, 14. "It spelled like it was plural, but it wasn't plural. I've heard the word before, but I couldn't recall it. I feel sad, disappointed and also a little happy that I don't have to do this ever again."
David will attend Fairview High School in the fall and, because of his age, he is limited from competing in spelling bees next year. This was his third and final trip to the National Spelling Bee. He's competed in bees since fourth grade and, in 2010, made it to the fourth round and placed 33rd in the national bee.
At the competition Thursday in National Harbor, Md., David was competing on stage against other top spellers in a live ESPN broadcast. Once spellers misspell a word, they're out of the competition.
Before that seventh-round mistake, David spelled three words correctly in the semifinals: "renminbi," the official currency of the People's Republic of China; "deuteragonist," the actor next in importance to the protagonist; and "pritchel," a type of punch used in forging.
David was among 41 spellers -- out of 275 -- who advanced to Thursday's semifinal round. A 25-word written test served as round one. Each written word was worth one point and counted toward a collective preliminary score.
David misspelled just one word during the written test: "pinealectomy," the surgical removal of the pineal body. In last year's national bee, he achieved a perfect score in the written round.
Spellers were awarded three points for correctly spelled words in Wednesday's two oral rounds, which also counted toward the preliminary total. David correctly spelled "accolade" in round two and "vivace" in round three for a preliminary total of 30 out of 31 points.
David said he studied nearly two hours each day before he competed in the Camera's 13th annual Regional Spelling Bee in February. He made it through 10 rounds of competition at the regional level, outlasting 51 other students to make it to the national bee.
He's been working with a coach twice a week and has studied word roots and patterns.
His advice for next year's spellers: "Study. I'd say to take their time, ask all the questions, write the word down on their placard a few times before spelling and take it slow."
Someday, he said, he hopes to study at Stanford or Massachusetts Institute of Technology to become a neurosurgeon.
Pninit Danielle Cohen of the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire contributed to this report.