Eighth grader Sylvie LaMontagne of Lakewood made it to the final four of Thursday's Scripps National Spelling Bee.

She made the national competition for the second-straight year. Last year, LaMontagne finished ninth.

The word that ultimately did LaMontagne in was "Chaoborine," a Greek word. Sylvie received a standing ovation when she walked off stage.

Forty-five spellers entered the final rounds Thursday morning, down from the 284 who began the competition Tuesday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center just outside Washington.

Cameron Keith, of Friends' School in Boulder, made the top 25. He misspelled the word "noncompos" in the fifth round.

The finalists are from California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York and Texas.

This year’s spelling champ will be crowned during a prime-time broadcast on ESPN.

Andrew France of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, exited the competition with grace after hearing the dreaded bell signal his error on a word in Round 5.

“Thank you – it has been an honor,” he said.

The 14-year-old missed “pareiasaur,” which refers to an extinct group of reptiles. He was off by just one letter.

Afua Ansah of Ghana got a standing ovation from the other spellers and the audience as she left the stage after missing “Liechtenstein.”

The ovation was one of several earned by departing contestants throughout the day.

Competitors began this year’s contest with a written test on Tuesday, followed by two rounds of spelling on stage Wednesday.

Thursday’s rounds took a heavy toll.

Erin Howard of Huntsville, Ala., was the first speller to compete on Thursday — and the first to fall.

The 11-year-old misspelled “Cheltenham,” which refers to a large family of printing types, at the 89th annual bee. Erin spelled it “Chelotnam.”

Vasundara Govindarajan of Miami was tripped by “reseau,” which refers to a group of meteorological stations. She substituted an “a” for the first “e.”

Larisa Tuttle of Indianapolis seemed unable to wrap her tongue around “gaillardia,” which refers to a flower or plant with hairy foliage.

“Say it slowly for the judges,” pronouncer Jacques Bailly encouraged.

Larisa, 14, asked Bailly to repeat the word several times, inquired about its origin (French) and wanted to know its part of speech (noun).

“Is there anything else I can ask?” an exasperated Larissa said, before giving it her best shot.

Her attempt — “galardia” — was two letters off.

Her father, Marc Tuttle, said afterward that the family likes to quote Winnie the Pooh's philosophy: "You never can tell with bees."

Hands stiffly at his side, Tharein Potuhera, 14, of Omaha, Neb., struggled with “jacopever,” which refers to large-eyed, red food fishes. He spelled it “yakapever.”

Alex Iyer of San Antonio, Texas, was graceful in defeat after misspelling “hypopus,” which refers to the migratory larva of some mites. The 13-year-old said he was glad to get such an interesting word, and just before departing the stage, declared, “I could not have done it without my dad.”

The crowd cheered.

Some spellers proved adept at picking apart obscure words that are seldom, if ever, used in everyday language.

Maxwell Meyer, 13, of Shorewood, Minn., had no trouble with “dithyramb,” which is a statement or piece of writing.

Thirteen-year-old Shiv Dewan of North Canton, Ohio, mimicked spelling the word out on his hand before acing “ptilopod,” which means having feathered feet.

"What’s up, doc?” Bettie Closs, 12, of Durham, N.C., joked with Bailly, who has a Ph.D. from Cornell University, before correctly spelling “wootz,” a steel made in ancient India. She was later eliminated in Round 6 after misspelling “caliginous,” which means misty.

The original 284 spellers ranged in age from 6 to 14 and were almost evenly divided among boys (143) and girls (141). They hailed from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as the Bahamas, Canada, Europe, Ghana, Guam, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, South Korea and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

For the first time, competitors included a first-grader — 6-year-old Akash Vukoti of San Angelo, Texas.

Akash aced the spelling of "inviscate" in Round 2 on Wednesday — the word means to encase in a sticky substance. But he stumbled in Round 3 on "bacteriolytic," which refers to the destruction or dissolution of bacteria.

This year’s winner will take home $40,000 in cash — $10,000 more than last year — along with a trophy and other prizes.

The past two bees ended with co-champions. Last year’s winners were Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas, and Gokul Venkatachalam of Chesterfield, Mo. The two battled through 20 tense, error-free rounds.

This year’s champion speller — or spellers — will be crowned Thursday night during a prime-time broadcast on ESPN.

Contributing: Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY