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San Diego Student Advances In National Spelling Bee

Francis Parker School eighth-grader Snigdha Nandipati will be among the 50 competitors in today's semifinals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md.

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.

The field was reduced from its original 278 based on the 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 is among three Californians in this year's semifinals. The others are Apolonia Gardner, a 14-year-old eighth-grader from Imperial and Siddharth Kulkarni, a 13-year-old eighth-grader from San Jose.

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.''

A contestant will generally be eliminated when he or she misspells a word in the semifinals and 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.

ESPN2 will carry the semifinals from 7-10 a.m. ESPN will carry the finals from 5-7 p.m.

The broadband network ESPN3.com will carry a second "play along'' version of both the semifinals and finals which viewers can 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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