Francis Parker School eighth-grader Snigdha Nandipati powered her way through three more rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md., Thursday, spelling such everyday words as stochastically, compas and rhonchus to become one of just nine finalists remaining.
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Snigdha qualified for the semifinals for the second consecutive year thanks to her success on a 50-word computer spelling test taken Tuesday and correctly spelling ringent, meaning having the mouth wide open, in the second round, and lahar, a volcanic mudflow, in the third Wednesday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center.
She started the day Thursday by nailing the spelling of stochastically, meaning random. She then correctly spelled compas -- a type of Haitian music, and rhonchus -- a snoring-type sound.
"She's studied for so long -- 90,000 words, so she knows them," her father, Kirshnarao Nandipati, told City News Service.
He said the biggest hurdle was waking up early on the East Coast.
"She's more of a night person," Nandipati said about his daughter.
She will move on to the finals, which begin later Thursday afternoon and will be broadcast at 5 p.m. ESPN.
Students and staff gathered on Thursday to watch the 14-year-old nail all three words during the semifinals. Classmates were filled with pride and praise.
"She was really, really good," said classmate Lia Redfern. "I salute her to that
Thank you for winning and moving on, let's go!"
Students said they are impressed with Snigdah's ability.
"Im terrible at spelling, thats like my worst thing, seriously," added Lia. "That's why I credit her for all her spelling things because if I were to do that and go there I would be out on the first round."
The field was reduced from its original 278 based on the computer test scores -- 25 words counted toward the score, with one point for each word correctly spelled -- and the second- and third-round results, in which spellers receive three points for each word spelled correctly.
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.
Snigdha was among three Californians in this year's semifinals. The others were Apolonia Gardner, a 14-year-old eighth-grader from Imperial and Siddharth Kulkarni, a 13-year-old eighth-grader from San Jose. The other two Californians were eliminated in the semifinals.
Snigdha will be the only student from California competing in the finals.
"I felt really proud for our school because, like, at this school we're a family," said classmate Jula Harrington. "It just feels good. It's like watching a sister or brother."
This will be Snigdha's final bee as it is limited to students in eighth grade or below.
Francis Parker Middle School Principal Patricia McKenna attributed Snigdha's spelling bee success to her passion for it -- including asking McKenna two years ago to have the school resume participating in the bee program after an absence of several years -- her hard work and technique of writing the words out in her hand with a finger before giving her official answer.
Snigdha is 14; enjoys reading random facts in encyclopedias, particularly in topics pertaining to science or history; likes to read whodunits and adventures; collects unique coins from around the world; is a member of her school's Yearbook Club and Science Olympiad team; participates in several math-related events; plays violin and is fluent in Telugu, which is spoken in parts of India.
"She's a terrific student," McKenna told City News Service. "She's the sweetest, nicest girl."
Not only is she representing Francis Parker on the national stage, she helped bring the spelling bee to the school last year.
"Really through Snigdahs desire and passion and the work that she did outside of anything that we did, she brought it to us and now we were able to create the environment where she can succeed and other kids can succeed," said Dan Lang, the school's dean of students.
Snigdah told 10News she studies five hours a night. This year, instead of using flashcards, she used a computer software program designed by her father to help her study up to 500 words an hour.
A contestant will generally be eliminated when he or she misspells a word in the championship finals.
The exception is when only one speller correctly spells his or her word during a round. In that case, that speller will be asked to spell another word in a new round. If that word is spelled correctly the speller is declared champion. If the word is spelled incorrectly, all of the spellers who completed the previous round are back in the competition and a new round begins.
The broadband network ESPN3.com will carry a "play along" version of the finals, allowing viewers to watch without seeing the word so they can test their spelling skills against the champion spellers.
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.
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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