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East Setauket 7th-grader heading to Scripps National Spelling Bee

Holding the championship trophy he recently won in

Holding the championship trophy he recently won in the sixth annual Hofstra LI Regional Spelling Bee, seventh-grader Ryan Himmelsbach, 13, is seen at his East Setauket home on Thursday, May 25, 2017. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

An East Setauket seventh-grader who has liked to spell since preschool is headed to the Washington, D.C., area this week to represent Long Island in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, where he will compete with nearly 300 students.

Ryan Himmelsbach, 13, a student at Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School in East Setauket spelled “requiem” correctly to win the Long Island Regional Scripps Spelling Bee at Hofstra University in February, qualifying him for nationals. It was his third time at the local bee, outlasting 47 other competitors through 11 rounds in three hours.

He’s liked spelling words since he was very young, he said.

“Even when I was in preschool, I would remember them,” he said. “Even if I just saw a word one time — it would all come back to me.”

This week, Ryan’s parents, John and Allison Himmelsbach, brother, Jake, 12, and sister, Ava, 9, will be in the audience for the national spelling bee, now in its ninth decade. A total of 291 spellers ages 6 to 15 will compete. The champion wins a $40,000 cash prize, a Scripps National Spelling Bee engraved trophy, and other prizes.

Ryan plans to make the most of the experience.

He is going to “have fun while I am there,” the Three Village district student said. “I am going to try my best . . . I have been studying for hours and hours every day so I have a lot of knowledge.”

Ryan, who had twice placed third at the Long Island bee before winning this year, has been poring over study guides that have rare words in them and words of different origins and patterns.

His mother offered this advice: “We say — ‘Just go for it. If you don’t know it, ask all the questions and give your best guess.’ — We’re excited for him to reach this level. It is something he has been working for for three years.”

The English department chairwoman at his school, Joanna Cadolino, studied words with him during lunch. “We wish him the best of luck at the national level, but no matter the outcome, he is always a winner to us,” she said.

All onstage rounds of the bee take place in the Maryland Ballroom at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.

The preliminaries take place Tuesday and Wednesday. They consist of a written test given Tuesday that also includes multiple choice vocabulary words and continue Wednesday with two rounds of oral spelling onstage.

On Thursday, finals begin at 10 a.m. and resume at 8:30 p.m.

Last year, Syosset student Rika Mizoguchi took first prize at the Long Island spelling bee with the word “adnate.” She did not advance to the finals at the national bee.

Two co-champions were named last year — Nihar Janga, of Austin, Texas, who spelled “Gesellschaft” correctly and Jairam Hathwar, of upstate Painted Post, who spelled “Feldenkrais.”


ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the ESPN app will combine to present hours of live coverage of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee, according to the sports network.

The ESPN app will exclusively carry all preliminary rounds live on Wednesday, May 31, beginning at 8 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and 1:15 – 6:15 p.m.

Live coverage of the Finals will begin on Thursday, June 1, at 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on ESPN2, ESPNU (Play Along Version) and the ESPN app.

The Finals competition will conclude on ESPN, ESPNU (Play Along Version) and WatchESPN at 8:30 p.m.

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