Two Southern California students headed east to compete against hundreds of other spelling whizzes in the 87th Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Timothy Lau, an eighth-grader at Calle Mayor Middle School in Torrance, and Samuel Littrell, a sixth-grader at Golden Elementary School in Placentia, are among 281 students from around the world vying for a $30,000 top prize this week in Maryland.
The competition kicks off Tuesday with a computer-based vocabulary round before live events begin Wednesday - culminating with the top 50 students in the final round Thursday night.
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Lau, 14, said he first saw the bee when he was 6 years old, and has hoped to compete in it ever since. He is an aspiring doctor.
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Littrell, 12, is a member of the Swim Team of Placentia, and aspires to attend MIT to study electrical engineering.
Competitors in the bee range in age from 8 to 15 years old, and many have previously participated, with just 90 making their bee debut this year.
Last year’s winner, Arvind Mahankali, bested opponents by correctly spelling the word “knaidel” - a word for a small mass of leavened dough - in the final round. This is also only the second year students will be quizzed on their vocabulary knowledge.
Students come from around the world to compete in the annual contest. Students who won local contests in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Ghana, Jamaica and Japan are among those competing.
The final round will air on ESPN Thursday, May 29 at 5 p.m.
City News Service contributed to this report.