NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — Other people might throw up their hands and exclaim “it’s all Greek to me” when they’re hopelessly confused, but not Abhinav Palle.
When the Scripps National Spelling Bee pronouncer gave him the word “pyroclastic” late Tuesday afternoon, the 13-year-old champion speller from Clarks Summit happily realized the word’s origins are Greek, which is one of his favorite languages because it follows strict spelling rules.
“I knew ‘pyro’ was the root word,” Abhinav said, adding he was familiar with the term— which denotes fragments of rock spewed from a volcano — because he studied it and not because Hawaii’s volcanic eruptions have been in the news lately.
Abhinav won the right to represent Northeastern Pennsylvania in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in early March when he took first place in a regional bee sponsored by the Times Leader newspaper and The Medicine Shoppe pharmacy.
On Wednesday, he will face 451 other spellers who have advanced to Round 3 of the national bee. Sixty-seven of this week’s original 519 contestants were eliminated when they misspelled a word onstage during Tuesday’s competition, which lasted more than eight hours.
“We are very glad and very proud to see him advance to Round 3,” said Abhinav’s father, Srikanth Palle. “This is a great experience and we are very thankful.”
Abhinav is Speller No. 401, and in Tuesday’s competition, his immediate predecessors, Spellers No. 399 and 400, each misspelled their words. Abhinav said he didn’t let that rattle him; he just focused.
He expects Round 3 to be much more difficult than Round 2. Rather than coming from a spelling list, he said, “they can be any word in the dictionary.”
Wednesday’s competition, set for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., can be viewed on the ESPN app and on the National Spelling Bee’s Twitter feed.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT