UPDATE: Gokul Venkatachalam advanced through the first round of the preliminaries at the Scripps National Bee. The Parkway West Middle School 13-year-old spelled 'perestroika' correctly.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (KSDK) - Gokul Venkatachalam tells NewsChannel 5 he likely won't have too much trouble sleeping before today's opening rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.
And why would he? This is Gokul's third trip to the national bee, where he's made it to the semifinals the last two years.
Will the 13-year-old fall asleep Tuesday evening as if it's any other night?
"Well, I wouldn't say that," Venkatachalam said.
Gokul finished the 7th grade at Parkway West Middle School. Last year at the national spelling bee, Gokul finished 19th out of almost 300 competitors. In 2012, he finished tenth.
Gokul is a St. Louis Cardinals fan, but his real love is for the NBA's Miami Heat. The expert speller says he will watch tonight's playoff game between the Heat and the Indiana Pacers, no matter what happens in the preliminary rounds of the bee today. Venkatachalam will likely get his first word sometime 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Gokul practices spelling four hours every weekday and six hours per day on the weekends. He says there is a bit of strategy to his technique, and a certain rhythm to how he asks for a word's meaning, language of origin, and part of speech. He does not like the judges to read a word in a sentence.
Gokul will compete in the preliminary rounds this morning and, if successful, he will advance to the semifinals and finals on Thursday. The Scripps National Spelling Bee is televised by ESPN.
There are seven other Missouri contestants in the Scripps National Spelling Bee:
Joel Miles from Harrisonville, Missouri
Kush N. Sharma from Kansas City, Missouri
Jade Ray Samanta from Poplar Bluff, Missouri
Julianna Sonnik from Sedalia, Missouri
Krishan Ghosh from Springfield, Missouri
Peyton Wiewel from St. Joseph, Missouri
There are 18 spellers competing from Illinois, most from the Chicago area:
Christine Alex from Chicago, Illinois
Nafisa Asad from Chicago, Illinois
Meghana Kamineni from Chicago, Illinois
Alia Abiad from Chicago, Illinois
Zander Patent from Chicago, Illinois
Lucas Michael from Crystal Lake, Illinois
Yasir Hasnain from Decatur, Illinois
Keith Gerard from DeKalb, Illinois
Anna Ackerman Dixon, Illinois
Kendra Leanne Scace Freeport, Illinois
Adam R. Kastler Grayslake, Illinois
Madhav Chand Srivatsa Gampala Kankakee, Illinois
Kodai M. Speich Loves Park, Illinois
Sophie Bergman Moline, Illinois
Srivinay Tummarakota Peoria, Illinois
Anika Patel Saint Charles, Illinois
Audrey Melton Sterling, Illinois
Medha C. Venigalla Springfield, Illinois