Spelling Bee 2013: Here are some of the whizzes who made it

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Their profiles read like the Who's Who of grade-school students. They are the mini geniuses who can crack code, ace math, fly simulated planes and spell impossible-sounding words like "humuhumunukunukuapuaa."

They are the Bees – and this year 281 spellers from all over the world will descend on Washington, D.C., to take part in the Scripps National Spelling Bee May 28-30. Here are a few of the contestants. See gallery

Tara Singh, 8, Kentucky

School: Third grade, Louisville Classical Academy, Louisville, Kentucky

Words aced: Laterigrade, deglaciation

How does an 8-year-old spell "laterigrade," "deglaciation," "discrepate," and "oyez"? With "nearly superhuman poise," that's how, according one of her school's directors. No wonder Tara Singh is this year's youngest participant (the youngest person to compete in the National Spelling Bee was six).

"She started reading when she was 2-years-old," Tara's dad Anand told MSN News. "She has always loved letters and language – one of our favorite parts of spellings is the interplay of different languages." The Bee now requires contestants to know the meanings of words, so Tara's parents are helping her learn the mechanics of language and meaning, even delving into Greek and Latin roots.

"I am excited about meeting other spellers and getting their autographs," Tara, who is on her final Harry Potter book, said. "I am also nervous – I never thought I'd make it to the finals. I am hoping for the best."

Her go-to study tools for the big day? Flash cards and quizlets.


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Katharine Wang, 11, China

School: Sixth grade, Qooco School, Beijing, China

Words aced: Fahrenheit, tungsten

This is Katharine Wang's second Spelling Bee championship. Katharine, who lives in Beijing with her two hamsters, Stardust and Bubbles, wears the same dark blue shirt for good luck for every Spelling Bee.

"I just hoped that I wasn’t the first one out," Katharine said after winning the China regional competition last year. "Before I started spelling, I was really nervous, all the random negative thoughts kept popping in my head like what if I get a word that I don't know, what if I misspelled, then when I got past the first word in the opening round, I got the level of difficulty and got comfortable and started settling down."

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Rohit Sahijwani, 12, Ghana

School: Seventh grade, Delhi Public School, Tema, Accra 

Words aced: Jicama, staphylococci

If you are curious how 7-year-old Rohit H. Sahijwani cracked the spelling of "jicama," it's because he knew its origin, which is Spanish. He also knows how to use the abacus and likes hanging out near the airport to watch planes take off and land (he wants to fly them one day).

His local paper called him a "spellibrity" after he won the qualifying round in Accra, Ghana's capital this year, winning a Delta Airline ticket to fly to the United States to take part in the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition. Rohit's favorite musician is Indian composer A.R. Rahman, although he's also a jazz fan.

Rohit's role model? His dad.

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Boys versus girls

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Daichi Hayakawa, 12, Japan

School: Sixth grade, Katoh Gakuen Gyoshu Elementary School, Numazu, Japan

Words aced:  Metamorphosis, hippopotamus

"It was like sitting on a knife-edge," Daichi Hayakawa told the Japan Times after winning the Spelling Bee qualifier held in Japan, beating out a record 42 contestants.

Besides having a knack for words, he also finds bugs of all kinds interesting – and wants to become an entomologist when he grows up. He would have loved to have met French entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre, considered by many to be the father of modern entomology. Daichi likes classic rock – John Lennon is a favorite – and fantasy books like "The Hobbit."

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Zander Patent, 12, Illinois

School: Sixth grade, Latin School of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.

Words aced: Pronouncement, piecemeal

An avid traveler who has been to Belize, Costa Rica, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, Zander Patent has also participated in the Science Olympiad, played the lead in his school's production of "East of the Sun and West of the Moon" and likes pi (having memorized the number to 43 digits).

According to his school website, Zander's first Spelling Bee was an impromptu bee in fourth grade. He was soon catching up to former school champions, and this year this bright-eyed youngster is on his way to the nationals. "I enjoy the challenge of spelling and find it interesting because it's like a puzzle," Zander told MSN News.. It's like a mind game trying to figure out the roots and etymologies."

Zander, who is practicing for four hours on weekends and two hours on school days, wishes good luck to all the other spellers. He adds: "Sometimes it helps me to sing my words when I spell them. I won't do that on stage. But it helps me at home."


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Christian J.D. Allen, 13, Jamaica

School: Eighth grade, Ardenne High School, Kingston, Jamaica

Words aced: Diervilla, hierurgy

He counts Steve Jobs among his inspirations. The world of aviation has captivated him since he was a mere toddler and he dreams of becoming a pilot (he practices regularly with programs such as Flight Simulator and X-Plane).

Besides excelling academically, Christian J.D. Allen is also actively involved in his church, which might explain why he aced the winning word – "hierurgy" (an act or rite of worship) – at the Jamaica Spelling Bee qualifiers. His triumph reportedly brought tears to his opponent's eyes. "I do feel sorry for him, but I feel very happy on the inside that I made use of my opportunity," Allen told the Jamaica-Gleaner after winning.

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Contestants by age and grade

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Letia Jones, 13, New York

School: Seventh grade, A.B. Davis Middle School, Mount Vernon, New York

Words aced: Peloton

The Mt. Vernon Inquirer described Letia Jones' win as "dramatic" in a contest that was full of suspense until the very end. An avid reader, Letia is known as a "brilliant student" and "masterful speller" who lists math and science as her favorite subjects. Her favorite book is "I Am Number Four" by Pittacus Lore, which has been described as "a thrilling paranormal teen romance science fiction adventure."

Letia's advice to herself? "Never be overconfident and stay as nervous and humble as you can."

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Kimmie Collins, 13, Indiana

School: Seventh grade, Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Terre Haute, Indiana

Spellings aced: Notochord, karaoke

Her weeknights are spent practicing ballet, pointe, tap, jazz and hip-hop. She can twirl batons and play the flute, alto saxophone and piccolo. Her special Spelling Bee breakfast? Scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon, blueberries and orange juice.

Kimmie Collins closed her eyes and tapped her arm as she spelled out words during the regional qualifiers in March. She has practiced every day since mid-February and described the regionals as "really scary": "I knew if I messed up, I’d be out," she told the Tribune-Star of Terre Haute.

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Trina Felizia-Alarkon Desquitado, 13, Washington

School: Fifth grade, Broad View Elementary School, Oak Harbor, Washington

Words aced: Oratorio, mystique

When Trina Felizia-Alarkon Desquitado heard the word "mystique" at the spelling bee regionals, she knew she had bagged a spot in the finals. "I knew that one," she said. "Others were searching to find the right spelling. Every time, she was like, 'boom, boom, boom," was how one of Trina's teachers described her performance.

This John Grisham and "Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer" fan likes wearing a rosary bracelet charm for every spelling bee and dreams of becoming an ophthalmologist and conducting medical missions someday. Trina's mom taped sheets of spellings all over the house to help her daughter practice – Latin went on the dining room wall, Greek on an old cardboard TV box.

"Trina and I study together after school from around 4 p.m. until about midnight depending on her homework," Trina's mom Badette told MSN News. "She takes little breaks for snacks and meals in between. Weekends are usually longer." Trina's dad is flying in from Saudi Arabia to be part of "Team Trina Bee." "We will gladly embrace whatever it is that awaits us in D.C. because along with our personal belongings, we have packed 'positive attitude' as well," Badette said.


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Emily Keaton, 14, Kentucky

School: Eighth grade, Christ Central School, Pikeville, Kentucky 

Words aced: Coloratura, tritium

A photography aficionado, Emily Keaton enjoys drawing everything from medieval swords to manga avatars of her friends. Named a Kentucky Colonel by Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, you can find her wearing a good luck twisted rubber bracelet at Spelling Bee contests. This year will be Emily's fifth and last spelling bee, as students are allowed to compete only through eighth grade.

Emily finished this year's regionals without asking the pronouncer to repeat the words, give a definition, use the word in a sentence or reveal the origin of the word. "When I ask questions, it makes me nervous," she said.

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Contestants by school type and repeat contestants

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Anuk Dayaprema, 14, Italy

School: Eighth grade, Vicenza Middle School, Department of Defense School, Vicenza, Italy 

Words aced: Fräulein

A three-time defending champion of the U.S. Department of Defense Europe Spelling Bee, this studious eighth grader has been described as a "spelling machine" who "dissects words with the cool efficiency of a surgeon." "That’s what I look forward to – not winning, but ending," Anuk Dayaprema said after winning the March qualifiers. "I mean, winning, too. But being up there, you get butterflies in your stomach."

Anuk had been accepted into Stanford University's Education Program for Gifted Youth and aspires to become a neurosurgeon. He is fluent in Sinhalese and counts U.S. Special Operations Commanding General Bryan "Doug" Brown as his role model. "I hope I can at least get past prelims and hopefully get a good place in semis," he says of the national competition.

In an email to MSN News, Anuk said he was "honored, as well as privileged" to take part in the National Spelling Bee.

When asked how he prepared for the rule changes going into effect this year, which adds multiple choice vocabulary tests to the annual competition, Anuk said that he paid close attention to foreign roots and their definitions.

"Rather than let this new change dismay contestants, I think that the participants should take the new change in their stride, since this is the first time in 86 years that the rules of the Spelling Bee have been changed, especially for the better," he said.