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Local kids showcased in national spelling bee

May 29, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
An 11-year-old boy from La Crescenta advanced to the fifth round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., Thursday, while a 13-year-old girl from Coto de Caza was eliminated in the preliminary round. Easun Arunachalam, a seventh-grader at Rosemont Middle School, correctly spelled alameda, hydrotropism and steeve to be among 45 spellers from a record field of 288 to advance to Friday's semifinals, which will be televised live by ESPN from 8-11 a.m. The final will be held later Friday and be shown by ABC on a delayed basis from 8-10 p.m.

Elizabeth Lagatta, an eighth-grader at Los Flores Middle School, misspelled geriatrician and also did not do well enough on a written spelling test to advance.

The preliminary round consisted of a 50-word test on a computer keyboard that had to be taken by Tuesday, and spelling one word orally. Only 25 words of the test were count toward the scores, with one point given for each word spelled correctly. Three points are given for spelling the word aloud correctly.

The bee is limited to students in eighth grade or below, with contestants ranging in age from 8-year-old Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post, N.Y., the youngest contestant in the history of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which began in 1925, to two 15-year-olds. Hathwar failed to advance past the preliminary round.

In addition to the United States, the field also included spellers from American Samoa, The Bahamas, Canada, Guam, Jamaica, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and one speller who lives on a U.S. Air Force base in Germany.

The winner will receive $30,000 from Scripps, $5,000 from the Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond from the dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster, and reference works from Encyclopaedia Britannica valued at more than $3,800.

Three Californians have won, including Evan M. O'Doreny of Walnut Creek last year. However, there has only been one Southern California winner, Anurag Kashyap of Poway in 2005.