"This is my first time going to the national spelling bee," said 13-year-old Shawn Ray, an 8th grader at Salyards Middle School in Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.
The same is true for 12-year-old Ramya Elangovan, a 7th grader at T.H. Rogers Middle School in Houston Independent School District.
"I am pretty nervous, but I'm also excited, "she said.
In total, 209 students from across the country will be battling for the title of the best speller.
Both Shawn and Ramya competed in their school spelling bees, advancing to the district competition and then regionals.
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Their prep for the national competition has been ongoing.
"I've definitely kicked it into overdrive now," Shawn said.
Ramya, who is also an accomplished chess player, is getting help from her brother, who is also a competitive speller.
"He quizzes me. I quiz him. It's a mutual quizzing, but we're also super competitive, and that helps," she said.
This year's competition will begin virtually on Saturday, June 12, with the 12 finalists heading to Orlando for an in-person competition on July 8.
The finals will be broadcast live on ABC13's sister network ESPN2.
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