Two Northern Virginia Spellers Compete in National Spelling Bee Semifinals

On Thursday, 46 of the country's best spellers will face off in the Scripps National Spelling Bee semifinals.

The next round started at 10 a.m. at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at Maryland's National Harbor.

Two of those competitors are from the D.C. area: Jae Canetti of Reston and Ankita Vadiala of Manassas. It's safe to say they've put in a lot of time preparing for the bee.

"I used to work one or two hours a day every day of the week," Canetti said. "Now I've bumped it up to three hours on weekdays, five hours on weekends."

Canetti and Vadiala were among 13 spellers representing the D.C. region in the preliminaries Wednesday.

Other semifinalists include last year's third-place finisher, 14-year-old Sriram Hathwar of New York; and two other finalists from last year: 12-year-old Vanya Shivashankar of Kansas, and 13-year-old Syamantak Payra of Texas.

The semifinals are broadcast live on ESPN2.

The competition kicked off Tuesday with computerized vocabulary tests for 281 spellers.

No more than 12 will advance to the finals Thursday evening, which will be broadcast live on ESPN at 8 p.m. The finalists will have to spell two words correctly in front of a national television audience and then hope their score on a computerized spelling and vocabulary test is high enough to make the cut.

The winner will earn more than $33,000 in cash and prizes.

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