Alisha Chakravarty, 12, of Turlock flew back east Sunday to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
The Turlock Junior High School student is among 519 finalists in the event in National Harbor, Md. It has become so prominent that ESPN and its sister stations carry the main portions, which will run through Thursday.
“I’ve been memorizing the dictionary and that’s been helping me a lot,” Alisha said by phone during an afternoon layover in New Orleans. She is traveling with her mother, Dr. Sunita Saini, a pediatrician with the Scenic Faculty Medical Group in Modesto.
Alisha qualified in part by being a finalist in California. She and the other national competitors will begin Tuesday morning with a written test that could launch them into the televised part starting Tuesday afternoon.
The bee dates to 1925, when nine newspapers created it to promote literacy and a love of reading among young people. Fans can track the results, and try their hand at a previous practice test, at the event’s website.
Alisha said she saw her first spelling bee while in second grade, and though she was too young to take part, she spelled the test words anyway.
Alisha also does softball and band, so life is not all about spelling, and she has a relaxed approach to the bee.
“It’s fun for me, so I really don’t get nervous,” she said.
About 11 million students took part in events around the United States leading to the state and national bees.
Alisha would be the second straight winner from the San Joaquin Valley if she tops the 2018 bee. Ananya Vinay of Fresno won in 2017 by spelling “marocain,” which is a type of fabric.
ESPN 3 will carry the bee from 6:15 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. Pacific time on Tuesday and 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday. The first part of Thursday’s finals will be from 7 to 11 a.m. on ESPN 2 and the rest from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.