For Audrey Bantug, getting through the preliminary round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Wednesday put her a step closer to the sweet taste of victory.
But before she could even begin to fathom the taste of the win, she had to spell and define a veritable mouthful of tasty terms better known to culinary connoisseurs than your average 13-year-old.
But the San Ramon student. who correctly spelled "prosciutto" and "umami" to advance to Thursday's final day of competition in Washington, D.C., is not your average 13-year-old.
The eighth-grade honors student at Iron Horse Middle School is one of 281 spellers competing in the national competition, one of three from the Bay Area. The other two were eliminated Wednesday.
She belongs to a unique subset of adolescents who count "flibbertigibbet" and "weissnichtwo" as their favorite words.
"We're all rooting for her," said Joe Nguyen, principal at Iron Horse Middle School, who says teachers are sharing with their students a website that tracks her progress. "We'll do something special when she gets back."
Audrey, who is a member of both the writing club and symphonic band at her school, received an all-expenses paid trip to the competition sponsored by this newspaper after winning the 37th Annual Contra Costa County Spelling Bee on March 23.
Nguyen said Audrey's entire family made the trip to cheer her on during her first Scripps appearance.
The competition began Wednesday with spellers from the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe, as well as the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.
But by day's end, 240 of those students were sent packing after the first three rounds that included two onstage rounds and one computer-based test.
While only 42 contestants were eliminated by the end of round three, the students' onstage scores were combined with their computer scores from the previous day to whittle it down to 41. The other two Bay Area contestants -- Neha Konakalla, 13, of Cupertino, and Cecilia Trujillo, 13, of Monterey County -- were eliminated during this process.
The semifinalists will take one more computer-based test Wednesday night before appearing Thursday on stage in one last stride for the finals. The finalists will be announced at the end of Round Six, which will take place 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pacific time. It will be televised on ESPN2. The finals, 5 to 7 p.m. Pacific time, will be on ESPN.
Follow Erin Ivie at Twitter.com/erin_ivie.