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Local Middle Schooler Heads to Spelling Bee Finals

Scripps National Spelling Bee Stage | Image by Scripps National Spelling Bee
Scripps National Spelling Bee Stage | Image by Scripps National Spelling Bee

Be honest, have you ever heard the word “morlop” before?

It was this word that gained Faizan Zaki entry into the 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee finals.

The 12-year-old attends sixth grade at Rice Middle School in Plano ISD. After having successfully spelled morlop, a variety of opaque quartz native to Australia, Zaki was catapulted into the final showdown with seven other participants set to commence Thursday evening.

The finals will be held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, and broadcast on ION from 7 to 9 p.m. Those wishing to tune in can do so for free on most streaming platforms.

As covered previously in The Dallas Express, Zaki made it to the semifinals last year but was knocked out after not providing the correct definition of the word besotted, which means infatuated. Nevertheless, he stood out as the highest-achieving North Texan in the competition that year.

Dev Shah of Florida was ultimately named the winner, taking home a commemorative trophy and $50,000 in cash after correctly spelling the word psammophile. This refers to a creature that prefers a sandy environment.

This year, 245 eager competitors from across the country turned out. Zaki is not the only Texan to make it into the finals — 13-year-old Kirsten Santos from the Houston area will join him after successfully spelling scire facias, a judicial term meaning “to cause to be known” in Latin. She attends the eighth grade at the International Leadership of Texas in Katy.

While Zaki is sponsored by the Dallas Sports Commission, Santos represents Houston Community College.

The other finalists — who range in age from 12 to 14 — hail from California, North Carolina, New York, Colorado, and Florida. They secured their spots by spelling obscure words such as alstonine, an alkaloid found in certain tree bark, and cricetine, which is a type of rodent.

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