Boston elementary school student eliminated after third round in national spelling bee

Farah Haniff, 10, of Brighton, competed in the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md. on Wednesday.
Farah Haniff, 10, of Brighton, competed in the 90th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Oxon Hill, Md. on Wednesday. Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

Farah Raslan Haniff, a fourth-grader from the Winship Elementary School in Brighton, made it to the third round in the Scripps National Spelling Bee before being eliminated from the finals.

In March, she won Boston’s citywide spelling bee by spelling “cacophony” correctly.

The 10-year-old put her spelling skills to the test again in Washington, D.C., where she vied to take first place to win the $40,000 grand prize, a $2,500 US savings bond, an engraved trophy, and the chance to appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and “Live with Kelly and Ryan.”

She competed in the second round of competition Wednesday morning. The third round started in the afternoon, and the finals are scheduled to take place Thursday. Entrance into the finals is based upon a total point system, her mother, Azna Zaini, said.


Farah correctly spelled words in rounds two and three. But finalists were required to have 29 points, and Farah did not have enough points.

In a telephone interview Wednesday evening, Zaini was optimistic about Farah’s performance.

“They only chose 40, so unfortunately, she did not make it,” Zaini said. “But this was her first year, and she enjoyed the experience.”

The Winship school librarian, Aaron Noll, was live-tweeting the event from D.C. using the Twitter handle @AaronGNoll.

At 9:48 a.m. he tweeted: “Farah is up! She spelled ‘stentorophonic’ correctly!”

Noll reported she was back onstage at 1 p.m. to begin the third round.

“The entire unabridged Merriam Webster dictionary is fair game for Round 3!” he tweeted.

Her father, Raslan Rashid, said there were 291 spellers competing in the bee, and there were plenty of parents, family, and relatives there to cheer the young contestants on. It was “quite a cheerful and lively atmosphere,” he said in a telephone interview.


Farah correctly spelled “collocutor,” he tweeted shortly after 3:30.

After she was knocked out of the competition, Noll tweeted that “Farah has been a hero and inspiration to us all.”

Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.