Visalia teen out of D.C. spelling bee

WASHINGTON -- Soft-spoken Christian Suarez, 14, of Visalia had no problem spelling in front of the crowd at the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

It was the written test taken in private that tripped him up.

The eighth-grader at George McCann Memorial Catholic School competed against 272 other spellers in rounds two and three of the bee's preliminaries Thursday, but he didn't score high enough in the round one typed test to continue on to the semifinals.

In rounds two and three, Suarez spelled "doxology" and "vaquero," which added the maximum six points to his total preliminary score.

For the preliminaries, contestants received three points for each word spelled correctly but were not eliminated for misspelled words. Officials combined these points with scores from the typed first-round test. The combined score determined who advanced to today's semifinals. The scores are not made public.

Only 48 contestants advanced to the semifinals. There, a speller is out of the competition if he or she misspells a word.

The competition will then resume with the championship finals beginning at 8 p.m. today. The semifinals and the championship finals will be shown live on ABC.

Christian said that the round one typed test was the hardest part of the competition, but before Scripps announced the results, he said he felt confident about the first round.

"Some of the words [on the typed test] were really hard," Christian said.

In their spare time, spellers make the most of visiting the nation's capital. This is the first trip to Washington for the Suarez family, and they've already visited several sites, including the White House.

Aside from the two to three hours each day he spends practicing spelling, Christian said he is teaching himself Japanese and already speaks Spanish. He said knowledge of other languages makes some of the words easier to spell.

All contestants receive at minimum $100 cash, a Webster's Third New International Dictionary CD-ROM, a commemorative watch and a $100 U.S. Savings Bond. Finalists have a chance to take home prizes valued at more than $40,000.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Friday's finals will be shown on ESPN.

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