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Alex Bay student competes in preliminary Scripps National Spelling Bee

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Dylan J. O’Connor is not too disappointed not to be advancing to the semifinals for the 85th Scripps National Spelling Bee at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.

The Alexandria Central School fifth-grader was speller 168 out of 278 accomplished spellers from all 50 states and as far away New Zealand and South Korea to participate in the national bee. Only 50 competitors are going to the semifinals today. Later in the day, the finalists will compete for a first-place prize of $30,000 in cash, a $5,000 scholarship, an engraved trophy, $2,600 in reference works from Encyclopaedia Britannica, a complete reference library from Merriam-Webster and an online language course from Middlebury Interactive Languages. All preliminary contestants receive a $100 gift card.

Dylan won the regional spelling bee at LaFargeville Central School in mid-March after spelling “rhinoceros” correctly.

“He’s perfectly fine. He wasn’t expecting to move on,” said his father, Michael J. O’Connor. “He really just started studying this year.”

He spelled 12 words correctly out of 25 during his round one computer test. He shined on stage, however, spelling “shrieval” — relating to a sheriff — and “dachshund” without hearing a buzzer.

“He said the ones he got in the second and third round were pretty easy,” Mr. O’Connor said.

“Shrieval” might not have advanced him to the elite 50, but it did get his photo on the Washington Post’s website.

According to his Scripps online profile, he is known to recite the periodic table of elements for fun and is teaching himself Russian and Japanese. In previous interviews, he mentioned he owned two dictionaries. Less seriously, he collects Pokemon toys and enjoys swimming. He idolizes Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps as his favorite athlete.

As a contestant, he is invited to all of the activities planned for the nearly 300 spellers at the contest, including a seven-hour tour of Washington, D.C., on Friday.

He’s especially excited to watch the semifinals and finals today.

“For a speller, that’s exciting,” Mr. O’Connor said.

Does he hope to participate again next year?

“I think so,” Dylan said.

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