Georgia’s two best student spellers survived the first five rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee Wednesday.

But when the teens fell in competition one after the other in the quarterfinals, it wasn’t for spelling — they each selected incorrect definitions in a multiple-choice word meaning round.

Sai Lakkimsetti, the 14-year-old Georgia spelling champion from Columbia County, missed on catatonic.

Matthew Baber, the 13-year-old state runner-up from Peachtree City, missed on protean.

If you’re asking yourself something like, “I thought this was a spelling bee, not a definition bee?” that component was added in 2021 “to challenge the spellers and further advance the Bee’s focus on word knowledge and literacy,” according to the competition website.

When it came to spelling, the two Georgians were aces.

Georgia spelling champion Sai Lakkimsetti and runner-up Matthew Baber pose at the Georgia Association of Educators State Spelling Bee. The two represented Georgia in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. (Courtesy of Georgia Association of Educators)

Credit: Courtesy of Georgia Association of Educators

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Credit: Courtesy of Georgia Association of Educators

Lakkimsetti cleared marcel, flickery and lamprey. Baber knocked out solecism, nanogram and exergonic. Good luck finding those words in any other articles in today’s paper.

In the first word meaning round, Lakkimsetti defined trounce and Baber gave the correct definition of cicada.

Both tied for 57th place with 15 other contestants. A total of 231 contestants ages younger than 15 competed.

While there won’t be any Georgia contestants moving forward, the bee will keep buzzing along. The semifinals will stream on the ION channel, available for free on various platforms, 8 p.m. Wednesday. The finals will stream on ION 8 p.m. Thursday.

Lakkimsetti was in his third year of competition. His best finish was in 2018, when he finished 42nd. The color commentator recognized Lakkimsetti’s pedigree on the broadcast, complimenting him as a “good speller” after being eliminated. Baber was in his first national bee and is young enough to compete again next year.

Bees are often tense, stoic affairs, but Baber provided bursts of activity. He covered his mouth and let out an, “Oh gosh,” upon being presented with protean. On a successful word earlier in the day, he was also immortalized in a triumphant GIF on Scripps National Spelling Bee social media.

Lakkimsetti and Baber earned their places in the national bee in the state competition hosted by the Georgia Association of Educators in March. They each received $1,000 among several other prizes, and GAE paid their expenses to travel to the national bee.

Baber’s last correct word in the state competition was adiabatic. He was eliminated misspelling palmyra. Lakkimsetti’s winning words were spumoni and nyctalopia. Our editors will be reaching out to them for copy-editing internships.