Tempe student represents Arizona at National Spelling Bee - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Tempe student represents Arizona at National Spelling Bee

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Posted: Thursday, May 27, 2010 12:18 pm

Anjali Nair, 13, has lived in Uganda, India, New Jersey and Arizona.

But she's never seen Washington D.C.

Thanks to the word regurgitant, she goes there next week.

Anjali, an eighth-grader at Tempe's McKemy Middle School, will represent Arizona at the 83rd annual Scripps National Spelling Bee Wednesday through Saturday. She won her trip from Arizona Educational Foundation and US Airways, sponsors of the state bee.

The walls of the living room in her Tempe apartment are covered with word lists, handwritten on various colored papers. Some words are short, while others are 14 letters long.

Years ago, when the family was in India, Anjali's mom, Sumethi, recalls seeing the U.S. spelling bee on television.

"I said, ‘This looks like fun,'" Sumethi said. "But from the beginning, you don't think you could."

Since Anjali won her school spelling bee, in the last year she can compete, it's been "a rollercoaster ride," her mom said. After that contest, the award certificate was pinned to the wall above the table Anjali uses to study. Since then, her mom has added the awards from the district, regional and state competitions.

Besides the word list used by the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Anjali studies with a 6-inch thick dictionary and an Internet program.

"It took quite a bit of determination, hard work, a bit of luck and God's blessing," to get this far, Anjali said. "It's a really fun thing to be in. If you get a word right you feel really smart."

The spelling bee word list is 23,000 words. Anjali uses etymology - the core or root of a word - to help learn them all. She also relies on asking for the origin of a word, which can often affect how a word is spelled.

"The ‘f' sound in Greek origin is (spelled) ‘ph' never ‘f,'" she said. Words of Dutch origin can throw her for a loop, but she's been working on it.

Studying begins shortly after Anjali arrives home from school and goes well into the evening, sometimes 11 p.m. or midnight. That is, after she completes her homework. Anjali competes for her school's math team and is a member of the National Junior Honor Society, as well. In the fall, she'll attend the Peggy Payne Academy, an honors program in the Tempe Union High School District.

But first, she gets to see D.C. with her family.

Anjali will compete against 273 other spellers in D.C. The semifinals will air on ESPN the morning of June 4. The finals will air that evening on ABC. "I'm hoping to see any huge monuments," she said, during the short time they'll have to sightsee between rounds or after the finals.

After that, Anjali said she hopes to catch up on some sleep.

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