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Victoria teen on way to national spelling bee

By Sonny Long
May 28, 2011 at 12:28 a.m.

Andrew Bernhard studies words and etymology to improve his odds of winning spelling competitions. He will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.


8 a.m. - Preliminaries written test


8 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. - Round Two of the Preliminaries live on ESPN3; semi-finalists announced


10 a.m. to 1 p.m. - Semifinals live on ESPN

8:30 to 10 p.m. - Championship Finals live on ESPN


From Scripps, a $30,000 cash prize and an engraved trophy

From Merriam-Webster, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond and a complete reference library

From Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation, a $5,000 scholarship

From Encyclopaedia Britannica, $2,600 in reference works and a lifetime membership to Britannica Online Premium

From K-12 Inc., an online course and a Nook eReader

For the Champion's School and Sponsor:

From Scripps, engraved plaques

All 275 spellers take a written test and participate in Rounds 2 and 3 on stage.

For each correct spelling in Rounds 2 and 3, the speller earns 3 points that count toward the preliminaries score. It is possible for a speller to earn up to 31 points in the preliminaries - 25 points on the Round 1 test plus 3 points for a correct spelling in Round 2 plus 3 points for a correct spelling in Round 3.

No more than 50 spellers will qualify for the semifinals.

Andrew Bernhard was the first one out in the first spelling bee he ever entered.

That was five years ago as a second-grader, but now the Our Lady of Victory seventh-grader is on his way to Washington, D.C., to take part in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Andrew, 13, won the regional bee in March to advance to the national competition.

"I'm nervous," Andrew admitted. "I'm excited about going to Washington for the first time and seeing the monuments, the reflecting pool and the Natural Science Museum."

Despite his early exit from the spelling bee as a second-grader, Andrew has always been a good speller, said his father, Randall Bernard, an operator at Formosa.

"He also excels in math and science and qualified for the state geography meet this year," said an obviously proud poppa.

Andrew has also competed in four events at the Private Schools Interscholastic Association state meet.

Well rounded, Andrew also plays soccer and is an altar server at his church, Our Lady of Victory Cathedral.

Andrew isn't resting on his laurels of winning the regional spelling bee, continuing to study words by reading through the dictionary he won and having his mother Melissa Bernhard call out words for him to spell.

"A lot of it is natural talent, but he also works hard at it," his father said. "He puts in a lot of work."

Randall Bernhard also credits Andrew's teachers and academic coaches for helping him prepare.

"He seems to enjoy academic competition," said his father.

As for secrets to his success, Andrew said there really isn't any.

"It helps to know the language of origin," he said. "There are ways to spell certain words if you know the language of origin."

He admitted German words give him the most trouble.

During competition Andrew always asks the pronouncer for the language of origin and to use it in a sentence.

Andrew said he enjoys meeting the other competitors and learning where they are from.

"It's stressful on the parents. We're more nervous than he is," said Andrew's father, who is accompanying Andrew on the trip. "It will be a good experience for him and motivate him to continue to work hard."

Andrew will be among 275 spellers taking part in the national competition.

His goal?

"I'd like to make the televised round," he said.

That would mean he has made it to the semifinals on Thursday and is in the top 50.



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