WASHINGTON – Anticipation is building for two Abilene,Texas,students who are in the nation's capital for the 78th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee this week.
Midhat Patel,12,a rising eighth grader at Wylie Junior High,and Nikki Kuna,14,a rising ninth grader at Abilene High,will represent Abilene at this big-time battle Wednesday and Thursday.
They were named co-champions at the Big Country Spelling Bee in March,winning the right to come here and compete with 271 other spellers.
They have taken tours and attended events over the holiday weekend that allowed them to get to know other spellers.
Midhat,who has been spelling for more than three years,said he studies words for at least two hours each night. He has reviewed nearly 7,000 words for this bee but said spellers can never stop studying.
“You have no idea what word you are going to get,” Midhat said.
“I am really excited and a little nervous,” Nikki said.
Spelling success runs in Nikki's family. Her sister,Melody,16,won the Big Country Bee in 2003 and finished in the top half at the national finals. Melody has been helping her kid sister.
“We have both been really busy,but I have been going over roots with her,” Melody said. “Mostly she has been working hard on her own.”
Nikki,contestant number 272,is one spot shy of being the final speller in the first oral round.
“I'll get to listen to everyone else before I go,and I will have a chance to calm down,” Nikki said.
All spellers will participate in one written and one oral round Wednesday. In Round 1 spellers write 25 words. Subsequent oral rounds continue Wednesday and Thursday until one speller is left.
Midhat,speller number 233,admitted that he prefers the oral spelling because he gets impatient during the written round.
“It only takes me 30 seconds to spell out a word,but the pronouncer usually takes one or two minutes to give a word” in the written test,he said.
Midhat says he enjoys spelling,reading and sports.
“I read anything I can get my hands on,” Midhat said. “I even read the back of the shampoo bottle once.”
Midhat's school spelling bee coordinator Nancy Sanford said she is thrilled that he advanced to the national level.
“He is a wonderful student with a supportive family,” Sanford said.
Irene Kuna is now a two-time mom at the National Spelling Bee. Kuna said she is proud of both her daughters and wants Nikki to enjoy herself.
“Scripps has put a lot into the event.” Kuna said. “They really make the kids feel good and give them a chance to get to know each other.”
The winner of the spelling bee will receive $28,000 in cash and prizes.
To track spellers' progress,visit http://www.spellingbee.com