MORIAH — Moriah Central School eighth-grader Nicholas Manfred is a North Country “spellebrity.”
After all, beginning today, the 13-year-old will compete for the second consecutive year in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
“I’m really nervous, (but) I think I was more nervous last year,” he told the Press-Republican last week as he prepared to leave for Washington, D.C., where the renowned program is held.
Nicholas earned his spot in the national competition in March, when he outlasted 51 other area students to become the champion of the Champlain Valley Educational Services Regional Spelling Bee.
The young spellebrity won the Regional Bee last year, as well, and spelled his way through the first three rounds of the 2012 national competition’s preliminaries before being eliminated.
This year, he said, “I’d like to make it into the finals.”
Nicholas, who has been studying vocabulary words posted on the National Bee website, said he feels better prepared for the challenge than he did last year.
Even making it close to the finals, he said, would be satisfying.
He will compete against 280 top spellers from across the United States and other parts of the world, including American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, South Korea and Department of Defense Schools in Europe.
In order to participate, students must be no older than 15 and not have passed beyond eighth grade.
The first round of the preliminaries will kick off today with a computer-based spelling test. Though no spellers will be immediately eliminated for incorrect answers, their test scores may determine whether they qualify for semifinals.
Rounds two and three of the preliminaries — when all spellers face off onstage in oral competition — take place on Wednesday. The contest will end automatically for those who spell incorrectly during these rounds.
No more than 50 spellers will advance to the first portion of the semifinals, which will consist of another computer-based test given Wednesday evening.
On Thursday, the remaining contestants will meet again onstage for the oral portion of the semifinals, followed by the championship finals, when they will take turns spelling aloud until a champion is declared.
Nicholas and his mother, Angela Baker, were scheduled to leave for the nation’s capital on Sunday and return this coming Saturday.
“I’m really excited,” the teen said. “It was a lot of fun last year.
“Washington, D.C., is not somewhere you get to go everyday.”
BARBECUE, CITY TOUR
While he will spend some non-competition time with last-minute study, social engagements and tourist activities are also on his itinerary for the week.
Spellers, he said, are invited to attend a barbecue, where they can get to know one another and collect autographs of fellow spellebrities. They will also have an opportunity to tour the historic city.
In addition, Nicholas plans to visit the Smithsonian Institution, as he did last year.
“There’s, like, so many exhibits that you can’t see them all in one day,” he said of the world’s largest museum and research complex.
This year, his grandmother, Beverly Baker, was going along, too.
“It’s going to be really new to her, and I think she’s going to have a lot of fun,” he said.
Email Ashleigh Livingston:firstname.lastname@example.org
SEE THE BEE
Rounds two and three of the Scripps National Spelling Bee preliminaries will be broadcast live on ESPN3, 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Wednesday.
The oral rounds of the competition's semifinals will air live on ESPN2 from 2 to 5 p.m. Thursday, followed by the championship finals from 8 to 10 p.m.
Also, follow the competition in real time on the Scripps National Spelling Bee website, spellingbee.com, keep up with the action at Facebook.com/scrippsnationalspellingbee and at Twitter.com/scrippsbee.