Poway teen among 280 National Spelling Bee contestants

National Spelling Bee Schedule

SAN DIEGO -- Allison Grace Grygar, a 13-year-old from Scripps Ranch, said she "just would like to represent my county well" in the 87th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, which began today in National Harbor, Maryland.

"I am not going in with the attitude that I have to win or else my life's going to be ruined," the eighth-grader at St. Michael's School in Poway told City News Service. "I'm just very happy to be here."

The teenager qualified for the national bee by winning the San Diego Countywide Spelling Bee on March 25 at the San Diego Hall of Champions. She began competing in spelling bees last year, when her class held one and she advanced to the countywide bee.

"This year, I studied harder because I really wanted to go to nationals," she said.

To prepare for the national bee, the teen said she studied the list of words that will be used in the first three rounds -- sent to her by organizers -- and rules for various languages. Additionally, "I've been reading a lot, trying to pick up other words."

Allison's English class is reading Charles Dickens' 1859 novel "A Tale of Two Cities," which she described as "a very difficult book, but it's exposed me to a lot of new words."

Said her mother, "Anytime she wasn't doing school work, she's been working on the spelling bee."

Kelly Grygar said she has helped her daughter prepare for the national bee, and the girl's English teacher, Regina Guarin, "has been coming in early every morning," giving her "45 minutes extra time in the morning with her teacher to work on spelling."

"At night, as soon as she finished her homework, she would start on spelling again," her mother said. "Normally, when I go to wake her up in the morning, she would be sleeping on top of her spelling words."

Being at the national bee is "certainly intimidating" because of the 78 spellers who will competing for at least a second time, but "everyone is supporting me," the teen said.

"They've said `We're already so proud of you,"' she said. "I'm not feeling any pressure from my parents, from my teachers. They're all very happy for me. The stress isn't overwhelming. It's manageable."

Allison and the 280 other spellers began competing Tuesday by taking a computer-based spelling and vocabulary test at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. The test is considered the first round of the bee.

The spellers will take to the stage Wednesday for the second and third rounds, where they will attempt to correctly spell one word each. Contestants spelling both words correctly have the chance to be among the maximum of 50 spellers advancing to Thursday's semifinals.

The second and third rounds will be shown by the broadband network ESPN3 beginning at 5 a.m. Wednesday Pacific Daylight Time.

The semifinals will be shown on ESPN2 from 7-10 a.m. Thursday and the finals from 5-7 p.m. Thursday on ESPN.

Throughout the entire competition, ESPN3 will carry a second "play along" version, where viewers will have the option to view coverage without seeing the word until the last second 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 8 to 15.

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.

Seven foreign nations are also represented -- the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.

The winner will receive $30,000 from Scripps, which owns television stations and newspapers; a $2,500 U.S. savings bond and complete reference library from the dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster; and $1,200 in reference works from Encyclopaedia Britannica.

San Diego County has produced two national champions -- Anurag Kashyap in 2005 and Snigdha Nandipati in 2012.

The bee is intended "to inspire children to improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives," according to Paige Kimble, the bee's executive director and 1981 champion.

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