Hathwar takes last shot at winning Scripps National Spelling Bee

Derrick Ek ek@the-leader.com
Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post listens to a word being read during the Regional Spelling Bee at Campbell-Savona High School in March. Hathwar will compete in the 87th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, beginning today in Washington D.C.

After coming tantalizingly close to winning it all last year, Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post returns to the Scripps National Spelling Bee for his fifth and final shot at the title.

The three-day event begins Tuesday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., near Washington D.C.

Hathwar, 14, an eighth-grader at Corning’s Alternative School for Math and Science, placed third last year.

In 2008, Hathwar was the youngest speller in the history of the event, but was eliminated in the preliminaries. In 2009, he finished 37th, and in 2011 he finished sixth.

This year will be his last chance due to age and grade restrictions.

Hathwar has qualified for each of his five trips to the Scripps National Spelling Bee by winning his school bee and then a regional bee held annually at Campbell-Savona High School. He is being sponsored by the Corning Rotary Club.

From a field of 11 million hopefuls who entered school bees, a field of 281 spellers from all 50 states, a handful of U.S. territories and seven other countries made it all the way to the national event.

The preliminaries begin Tuesday.

It starts with a computer test today that includes spelling and multiple-choice vocabulary questions, followed by two oral rounds of spelling beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday that will be shown live on ESPN3.

For those who qualify, the semifinals include another computer test Wednesday evening, followed by two rounds of oral spelling on stage beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday that will be shown live on ESPN2.

Thursday evening’s finals consist of entirely oral rounds on stage, which will begin at 8 p.m. and continue until all but the champion have been eliminated. The finals will be shown live on ESPN.

Hathwar, who will be Speller No. 154, is the only speller in the field of 281 who is making his fifth appearance.

There are 13 semifinalists back from last year.

The winner gets $30,000 in cash, an engraved trophy and other prizes.