San Diego Union Tribune

May 31, 2005

Middle-schooler back at national bee

By Kelly Bennett

WASHINGTON Despite being members of a technological "gnr8n" (generation) shaped by the odd shorthand of instant messaging, Anurag Kashyap and his friends buck the trend.

Using AOL Instant Messenger, they grill each other while preparing for the Scripps National Spelling Bee this week.

"We type the pronunciation and the other person spells it," Anurag said. "We have a little system."

The 13-year-old eighth-grader from Meadowbrook Middle School in Poway will represent the San Diego region for the second consecutive year in the 78th annual bee in Washington, D.C.

He is one of 273 regional winners competing in the bee, which runs tomorrow and Thursday. Most of the contestants come from the United States, but they include 11 Canadians, one New Zealander and one German. The champion will receive the national title and more than $28,000 in cash and various prizes.

While hoping for success, Anurag is looking forward to seeing the friends he made last year. They've kept in touch using Instant Messenger.

"In my little clique of spellers, there are eight people," he said.

Seven will be setting aside their computer chats to compete face to face in the bee.

Anurag has been competing in bees since fourth grade. Two years ago, he placed second in San Diego. Last year, he made it to Round Four of the national event and placed 47th. He was eliminated when he omitted an "n" from the word "innominate," which means "not named" or "anonymous."

This is the second year for a new bee format. The first round tomorrow will be a written test, and all subsequent rounds are oral. No contestants will be eliminated until their combined scores from the first two rounds are calculated.

After five years, Anurag knows how to study. He said he spends about three hours a day on his regular homework before studying spelling from 7 p.m. until he goes to bed "usually about midnight."

In addition, he meets once a week with Jim Dyer, his coach and English teacher at Meadowbrook. Dyer will be accompanying Anurag to Washington, along with the boy's father, Chandra Roy, and mother, Archana Kashyap. The San Diego Union-Tribune is sponsoring the trip.

Dyer thinks Anurag is well-prepared.

"He's strong mentally, in his ability not to crack, and strong in his skills, too," Dyer said. "It's almost mystical how he spells so well. I can't put my finger on what it is exactly that he does."

Anurag's father is proud of his son's well-roundedness. "He is pretty balanced when it comes to the subjects," Roy said.

Anurag has participated in state-level Mathcounts and Science Olympiad competitions and recently placed 11th in the California Geography Bee.

But for now, he's focused on spelling. Dyer thinks he could win.

"I think it's always possible," Dyer said. "There's a lot of luck involved, but I think he's over the small hurdles tenseness, nervousness."

Anurag's goal for this year's bee is to beat his past performance "and to spend time with my friends."
Kelly Bennett, a Point Loma Nazarene University journalism student, is a summer intern at Copley News Service's Washington bureau.