BERKELEY (CBS SF) — Nearly 200 students gathered at UC Berkeley Saturday to competed for a spot in the CBS KPIX 5 Bay Area Spelling Bee in March.

The students, already top spellers at their elementary and middle schools, filed into the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley to take on the challenge of spelling 50 words on the written test.

Those results will be tabulated to select the top 50 who will advance to the regional bee andd to the Scripps National Spelling Bee to be held in Washington, D.C.

Some are first timers, like Iniya Rajanikanth, 4th grader at James Doughterty Elementary in Dublin.

“(I’m feeling) nervous and excited,” she smiled. “I like it. I read a lot of books and everything.”

Carlos Zarate, 1st grader at Graham School in Newark, credited his mother with assistance in studying.

“My mom helped me a lot,” he said. “She’s a teacher’s aide, and she pushed me hard, and it paid off.”
 
First timer Michelle Chen of St. Simon School in Mountain View said: “It’s really great, because not a lot of people get this chance and I’m really excited for it.”
 
Meanwhile, fifth grader Reedhima Ahuja of Walnut Grove School in Pleasanton came prepared.
 
“Be relaxed and don’t get nervous,” he concluded.
 
Some of the spellers were veterans who have taken the written test before.
 
For one 8th grader, it’s his third attempt to clinch a spot at the regional bee:

Finnan MacRunnels of St. Raymond School in Menlo Park said: “I hope I can do better than before, advance on my last try, show everyone I make it one step further in my last year.”
 
In this weekend’s elimination round, KCBS radio business anchor Jason Brooks pronounced all 50 words. Some were familiar.
 
Fourth grader Reid Derrick of Hilldale Elementary in Daly City, mused:

“This year I felt I knew more of them. My teacher was more focused on word patterns instead of just learning to spell the words.”
 
But the words kept getting tougher.
 
Even though she didn’t know all the words, 4th grader Caitlynn Balagso of Lynn Haven Elementary in San Jose concluded: “I think I did pretty good.”
 
Others were not as confident.
 
“This was my first bee, and the words were really hard,” reflected Dane Burkard of the Burkard Scool in San Mateo.
 
In about a week, the 8-14 year old competitors will find out if they made it to the CBS Bay Area Spelling Bee.

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