Broward student advances to national spelling bee semifinals

— Christal Schermeister of Pembroke Pines is among 41 spellers to advance to the semifinals of the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee after a tough day of competition Wednesday.

Christal, who placed 22nd in last year’s bee, is ready for a triumphant showing.

The 13-year-old student, who is home-schooled, said she was “overly distraught” after missing a word in her previous semifinal appearance. “This year, I’m going to let go of the outcome and whatever happens, happens,” she said.

In preparation for the competition, Christal said she added thousands of new words to the 23,000 she had memorized a year ago, as The Miami Herald Spelling Bee champion from Broward County.

Shayaan Subzwari, 12, was competing in the national competition for the first time. He won the Miami-Dade edition of the bee by correctly spelling the word “bituminous,” which is a type of coal.

“I’m not nervous,” Shayaan said before the competition. “I’m excited.”

Shayaan, a student at Norman S. Edelcup Sunny Isles Beach K8, spelled correctly in the first two rounds, but his overall score, which incorporated the results of computerized spelling and vocabulary tests, wasn’t high enough to advance.

Both spellers use the same tactical approach to spelling, breaking words into their roots.

“I have to go one word, one letter at a time,” Christal said.

Shayaan uses the same approach, dividing words into syllables. “I try to find the meaning of each syllable, and then I’ll build on that,” he said.

Christal used a website called to study vocabulary. The website donates 10 grains of rice to the hungry for every correct answer. “You can expand your vocabulary and feed people at the same time,” she said.

Christal says she loves science, ballet, and the Star Wars movies. Her favorite character is the wisest one - Yoda.

Shayaan says he’s even better at math than spelling, and wants to be an architect or a rocket scientist. He also wants to build a helmet to keep a person awake – all the better to study more.

Christal planned to do some more studying and get a good night’s sleep before Thursday’s semifinal, which will be broadcast live on ESPN2. The announcement of the finalists will immediately follow and be televised live on ESPN on Thursday evening.

If Christal wins?

“My dad will buy me a pet skunk,” she said, noting that the trophy would be a good place for it to sleep. “You can get them de-scented.”