The Scripps National Spelling Bee began Tuesday in National Harbor, Md. with Francis Parker School eighth-grader Snigdha Nandipati among the field of 278 taking a 50-word computer spelling test, with 25 words counting toward their scores.
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Snigdha tied for 27th in last year's bee, advancing to the fifth round, the only Californian to reach the semifinals. She was eliminated when she misspelled kerystic, which refers to a sermon.
On Wednesday, the spellers will take part in rounds two and three, which are conducted on stage at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center and require students to spell one word in each round.
Spellers earn three points for each correctly spelled word, giving each speller the chance to earn up to 31 points in the first three rounds.
At the end of round three, the field will be reduced to a maximum of 50 spellers.
The semifinal and championship rounds will be held Thursday, with a contestant eliminated after he or she misspells a word.
Rounds two and three can be seen on the broadband network ESPN3.com beginning at 5 a.m. Wednesday. ESPN2 will carry the semifinals from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Thursday. The championship finals will be on ESPN from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday.
Throughout the entire competition, ESPN3.com will carry a second "play along" version, where viewers can watch without seeing the word so they can test their spelling skills against the champion spellers.
The bee is limited to students in eighth grade or below, with contestants ranging in age from 6 -- Lori Anne Madison of Woodbridge, Va., the youngest speller on record -- to 15 years old.
Snigdha is a member of her school's Science Olympiad team, participates in several math-related events, is a member of the school Yearbook Club, plays violin and is fluent in Telugu, which is spoken in parts of India.
The winner of the bee will receive $30,000 from Scripps, which owns television stations and newspapers; a $5,000 scholarship from the Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation; $2,600 in reference works from Encyclopaedia Britannica, including its final print edition, and a lifetime membership to Britannica Online Premium; a $2,500 U.S. savings bond; a complete reference library from the dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster; and a Nook Color and online language course from Middlebury Interactive Languages.
The field consists of students who won locally sponsored bees in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, along with American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Department of Defense schools in Europe.
Eight foreign nations are also represented -- the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
Southern California has produced only one champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which began in 1925 -- Anurag Kashyap of Poway, the 2005 winner.
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