UPPER MONTCLAIR, NJ — Emily Gao, a fifth grader at Washington Elementary School in Westfield, finished in second place in the Liberty District Spelling Bee Saturday, securing a spot in next month’s State Spelling Bee.

After 11 rounds, fifth grader Keilah Torriollo of Summit won with the word “milling,” but competition continued with an intense spell-off to determine the second- and third-place finalists, according to organizers.

Claire Qin, a fourth grade student at McKinley Elementary School, took home the honorable mention. Third place went to Saffia Ouali, a fourth grader from Kearny.

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The Liberty District Spelling Bee was hosted by the Woman’s Club of Upper Montclair. Gao and Qin were sponsored by the Junior Woman’s Club of Westfield.

Gao and the other two top finalists will go on to compete against fourth and fifth graders from towns throughout New Jersey on Saturday, March 4 (snow date of March 11) in the State Spelling Bee at the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs’ headquarters on the campus of Douglas Residential College at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.