Ashburn student reaches finals of Scripps National Spelling Bee

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Ashrita Gandhari, 14, who attends Stone Hill Middle School in Loudoun County, Virginia, was among 11 spellers who survived Sunday night’s semifinal round to reach the finals.

The semifinals were conducted virtually, but Gandhari and the other remaining spellers will travel to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, where the finals will be conducted in person on July 8. The finals will be broadcast live on ESPN2 beginning at 8 p.m.

On Sunday night, Gandhari correctly spelled quondam and asterixis and provided the correct definition of cataplexy.

The National Spelling Bee began earlier this month with 209 spellers who qualified by winning their local or regional spelling bee. A preliminary round and a quarterfinal round reduced the field to 30 spellers for Sunday’s semifinals.

Another Northern Virginia speller, Akshita Balaji of Merrifield, also reached the semifinals but was eliminated in the first round Sunday when she misspelled foveiform. She spelled it “foveaform.”

Prince William County speller Keona Thomas was eliminated in the preliminary round earlier in the month. 

During the virtual rounds, spellers were required to use laptops and headsets provided by the National Bee, had to keep their hands in view of the camera while competing, and had to have a proctor in the room with them.

The 2020 National Spelling Bee was canceled due to the pandemic.

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