St. Louis spelling bee champion misses last chance to compete for national title

Colette Giezentanner missed her first word Sunday in the semifinals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, ending her career as the reigning St. Louis spelling champion and tied for 21st best speller in the country.

“One of the wonderful things about my daughter is she bounces back from adversity unusually quickly,” said Lee Giezentanner, Colette’s father. “She will make it through this with flying colors and she’ll find many other reasons to feel rosy and good about the world and herself.”

Colette, 14, misspelled “phellem” — a Greek word for “cork,” by putting a “u” in the second syllable. The semifinals were conducted virtually, with Colette competing from her Webster Groves home. The 30 competitors were given their words via videoconference from longtime spelling bee pronouncer Jacques Bailly.

Colette won the 35th annual St. Louis Post-Dispatch Regional Spelling Bee in March to qualify for the national competition. Next year, she will be a freshman at Webster Groves High School and no longer eligible for the bee.

The top 11 finishers from Sunday will move on to the in-person finals on July 8 in Orlando, Florida.