OXON HILL, Md. (CBS SF) – A Cupertino middle school student has proven herself as one of the nation’s best young spellers and will compete against eleven other distinguished students Thursday night for the title of National Spelling Bee Champion.

8th grader Neha Konakalla, who won the first ever CBS San Francisco Bay Area Spelling Bee hosted by KPIX 5 and KCBS Radio in March, has outlasted dozens of other regional champions to advance to Thursday night’s live final on ESPN at 5 p.m.

The 14-year-old, who represents Sam H. Lawson Middle School, is a veteran of competitive spelling and represented the Bay Area in last year’s national competition. This year she excelled in both the spelling and relatively-new vocabulary portion of the event. She correctly spelled “glaucescent” and “graveolent” and defined “theologaster” and “gullibility” to advance through rounds five and six of the semifinals, which included just 28 spellers from the original field of 281.

She will now attempt to become the first national champion from the Bay Area since 2007 winner Evan M. O’Dorney of Walnut Creek.

A second local speller, 13-year-old Shirlyn Prabahar of Gale Ranch Middle School in San Ramon, did not advance to the semifinal round.


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