Toll Middle School student falters on 'favilla' in national spelling bee

“Favilla” – not pyroligneous, consuetude shanghaied or any of the other words he spelled earlier – proved to be the downfall of Jeremiah Cortez, an eighth grader at Toll Middle School who on Friday had advanced to the sixth round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Jeremiah, 14, began the competition with 272 other spellers from around the country, progressing to a field of 48 after passing through a two-day, three-round gauntlet of word-spelling.

In Round 6, Jeremiah incorrectly spelled “favilla” – an uncommon word for “hot embers or cinders” – as “favila”.

Jeremiah has long spelling championship history with the Glendale Unified School District, one that eventually earned him a spot on the national stage.

In a phone interview, his father described the teen as a “book worm” who had an appetite for sussing out words, and described the competition as “nerve-wracking.”

The winner of spelling bee receives cash, a scholarship and other gifts worth more than $40,000.

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