The Portland Press Herald

Nat Jordan would be the first to admit that he’s a little conflicted these days.

Sure, there’s the Scripps National Spelling Bee this week in Washington, D.C. But back home in Cape Elizabeth, he just hit his first Little League home run, so he can be forgiven for perhaps letting spelling take a back seat in his mind.

“I haven’t studied that immensely hard,” said Nat, a 7th-grader at Cape Elizabeth Middle School.

Nat’s not cocky. He knows that his approach — studying 15 to 30 minutes a day, squeezed in around those baseball games, other sports and “hanging out with my friends” — isn’t a route that’s likely to lead to him bringing home the winner’s $30,000 in cash, an engraved trophy, a $2,500 savings bond, a $5,000 scholarship and reference books.

“I don’t have any real chance of winning,” he said, noting that other contestants are likely spending three to four hours a day on spelling leading up to this week’s national championship.

“Those people are crazy,” he said. “I don’t want to dedicate my life to spelling. I have other things I want to do.”

Nat’s approach might be colored by the fact that heading to the national championship isn’t something new for him, although this will be his first time on stage in Washington.

His older sister, Lily, won the Maine title twice and competed in the nationals, tying for 10th place last year. So even though it was Lily sweating it out, the hoopla, television cameras and setting is a bit old hat for Nat.

“I know my way around the hotel,” he said.

Nat’s parents are Glenn and Nancy Jordan. Glenn Jordan is a news and sports writer for The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

This week, Washington is “spelling geek heaven,” Glenn Jordan said.

It starts with a computer-based spelling test this morning. Spellers will hear a word pronounced, get information such as its origin, part of speech, definition and use in a sentence, and then will be asked to spell the word on the computer. There will be 50 words in this round, but only 25 — pre-selected and unknown to the spellers — will count.

On Wednesday, there are two rounds on stage. No one will be eliminated for misspelling a word, but their performance will be combined with their score on the computer test to determine the semifinalists.

Those top spellers go on to the semifinals from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday. The contest is then in a more traditional format: spell a word correctly and move on, misspell it and you’re out.

The finals are from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday.

Wednesday’s rounds will be broadcast nationally on ESPN3. The semifinals are on ESPN2 and the finals will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

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