San Diego student advances to National Spelling Bee semis

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A seventh-grader from San Diego's Francis Parker School will be the lone Californian in Thursday's semifinals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md.

Snigdha Nandipati became one of the 41 semifinalists from the original field of 275 because of the combination of her score on a 25-word written test taken Tuesday and correctly spelling “avifauna” — meaning birds from a specified region — and “masala” — a blend of Indian spices and herbs — during Wednesday's second and third rounds.

During the semifinal and championship rounds, a contestant is generally eliminated when he or she misspells a word.

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, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond from the dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster, and reference works from Encyclopaedia Britannica valued at $2,600 and a lifetime membership to Britannica Online Premium and a Nook eReader and online course from K12 Inc.

ESPN will televise the semifinal rounds beginning at 7 a.m. and the championship rounds at 5:30 p.m. today.

The broadband network will carry a second “play along” version, featuring the option to view the coverage without graphics, so viewers can test their knowledge against the champion spellers.

The bee is limited to students in eighth grade or below, with this year's original field of contestants ranging in age from 8 to 15 and from third through eighth grades.

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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