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Meet the hometown heroes of the Scripps National Spelling Bee

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There are 516 kids competing in this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee, and our kids are the home team. For three days starting today, the spellers will compete at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor in Maryland for prizes, including $40,000 and a pizza party for their whole school. It all culminates at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, when the finals will be broadcast on ESPN (you can watch the whole thing via the ESPN app).

We talked to four of the local students hoping to avoid the crushing sound of the “ding” that signifies an error. If you want to cheer them on in person, it’s free. No tickets are required except first-come, first-served ones for the Thursday night finals

Simon Kirschenbaum

Age: 12

School: Alice Deal Middle School

Favorite food: Sushi

Favorite thing to watch on TV: “Speechless” and Nationals games

Prep technique: Simon studies Latin and Greek roots, as well as patterns in other languages. “I don’t really get nervous,” he says.

Kayden Wilkins 

Age: 10

School: Melwood Elementary School

Favorite food: Orange chicken
from Panda Express

Favorite TV show: “Henry Danger”

Prep technique: “If there’s a quiet place, I would go there and talk to myself. I would say, ‘Get ready, Kayden. … You need to stay calm,’ “ he says.

Isabel Messina

Age: 13

School: Wiley H. Bates Middle School

Favorite movie:Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”

Favorite song: “Ring of Keys” from the musical “Fun Home”

Prep technique: Isabel uses the sign language alphabet to finger-spell the words while spelling to slow herself down.

Eric Kim 

Age: 12

School: Wakefield Forest Elementary

Favorite team: Seattle Seahawks

Favorite movie: “Black Panther,” but he hasn’t seen “Avengers: Infinity War”

Prep technique: Eric studies and for two hours a day. “I just get some sleep and don’t psych myself out,” he says.