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About 35 students of South Asian origin qualified for the 78th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee final .

These students -- and 238 others -- who won regional Spelling Bees to qualify for the final have to be younger than 16 when the contest begins and not have crossed the eighth grade on or before February 1 this year.

Around 10 million elementary and middle school students participate in Spelling Bees at various levels in America, including at the school level.

The National Bee and the regional contests are sponsored by the E W Scripps Company and more than 260 newspapers in the United States, Europe, Canada, New Zealand, Guam, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, and American Samoa.

Each speller who reached the final is assigned a number alphabetically by state, territory, or country. Except for Round One, a 25-word written test, it is an oral competition conducted in rounds until only one speller remains.

Just 11 years old, Samir Patel (above) is a Spelling Bee veteran. He finished 3rd in 2003, 27th in 2004 and joint second in 2005. The crowd favourite, he plans to take two weeks off and then prepare for another assault on the title next year.

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