The second round was not a spelling round, but a “word meaning” round, where contestants had to correctly answer a multiple-choice question about a word’s definition. Sophia was asked whether “pious” meant unruly, devout or majestic, and she correctly chose “devout.” Another 29 contestants were eliminated in that round, reducing the field to 109.
In the third round, she correctly spelled “slough,” which is pronounced “slew” and means, “a state of moral degradation.” With 35 more spellers eliminated in Round 3, the field of 74 was set for Tuesday.
“I was a little bit apprehensive about the online format, but I think the Scripps team did a really good job of making it seem really nice and normal,” she said.
While some of the spellers were too tense to react when they finished Round 3, a big smile broke out on Sophia’s face, as she said it was “a sense of relief” to be on to the quarterfinals when so many contestants had been eliminated.
Sophia, who is 13 and just finished seventh grade, also advanced to the national spelling bee in 2019. She’s involved in theater, likes running and swimming, and she plays the violin, including with the Springfield Youth Symphony. She said she enjoys reading and spending time with her friends and her cats.
The online quarterfinals will follow the same format as the preliminaries — spelling in Round 4, word meaning in Round 5, spelling in Round 6 — with everyone who successfully completes Round 6 advancing to the semifinals June 27.
On Monday, Sophia was busy studying for Tuesday’s rounds, but she was trying to keep some balance.
“I think it’s good to study and review a lot of words before a spelling bee, just to have them fresh in your mind,” she said. “But taking study breaks is also really helpful.”
Of the 14 Ohio contestants in the national competition, six advanced to the quarterfinals. In addition to Lopez, they are: Nathan McElroy, 11, of Marietta Veritas Classical Academy; Isabella Fletcher, 12, of Steubenville Harding Middle School; Rajshekhar Basu Sarkar, 12, of Van Buren Middle School near Findlay; Christopher Dominick, 13, of Struthers Middle School near Youngstown; and Hurshil Nittala, 13, of Olentangy Liberty Middle School near Columbus.
The national semifinals and finals will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPNU. The top 10-12 spellers from the June 27 semifinals (which will continue in the online format) will advance to the in-person finals July 8 in Orlando, Fla.