OXON HILL, Md. — Riya Hegde and Jameson Tan have a lot in common.
The girls’ fathers are friends who met in medical school.
They’re also both 12-year-olds competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Riya, who attends Hudson Middle School, was the champion at the Beacon Journal Regional Bee in March; Jameson represents Akron's Our Lady of the Elms School, where she is a seventh-grader.
They also both will move on to Wednesday’s Round 3 of the bee after correctly spelling in Round 2.
Round 1 was a written test that was held Monday.
Scores on the written test will be combined with scores from correct spellings in Rounds 2 and 3 to determine who will move on to Thursday’s finals. No more than 50 spellers will move to those final rounds. The champion will be declared Thursday night during a national telecast on ESPN.
The girls had a long wait to walk up to the microphone Tuesday.
Jameson is Speller No. 386 and Riya is No. 425. There are 562 spellers taking part in the event.
After Round 2, only 46 spellers had fallen out of the competition due to misspellings.
Dr. Niki Hegde, Riya’s mom, said she didn’t think her daughter would have known the word she received Tuesday — VINDALOO. It’s an Indian dish.
That didn’t bother Riya, though.
“I was kind of excited because I felt like it was a comparatively easy word, compared to the other ones,” she said after leaving stage following her round.
Riya said she felt prepared.
“They gave me the list, and I felt like I knew it pretty well, but I was still kind of nervous that I was going to somehow mess it up,” Riya said.
She need not have worried. She said she and her parents sat in on some of the earlier rounds so she could get an idea of how the bee works.
Jameson is participating in the national event via its RSVBee program, which allows spellers who aren't their regional champs to also participate. It's also geared to reach out to areas of the country where there are no regional qualifying bees. Families whose children participate must foot the cost of the participation and all travel expenses.
Her parents said Our Lady of the Elms teacher Anne Suntken encouraged them to participate. Suntken is an English language arts and social studies teacher at the middle school.
“We were out of the country when she won the regional bee,” said Jameson's mother, Jackie Peckham. “So we missed a lot of it, but her teacher Mrs. Suntken, who was the one who registered the school this year with the bee, really encouraged her.
“So, when we were back in town, she was like, ‘What about this RSVBee thing? What about this RSVBee thing?’ And she was really pushing us. So we were asking [their daughter], ‘Are you sure you want to do it? Do you know what you’re getting in to? Are you prepared to work for it?’ And she’s been really enthusiastic about it. Really excited about being a part of it. I think even more so now that she’s meeting all the kids who are here.”
Jameson said she’s enjoying her participation.
"I’m here for the experience, but also meeting people who have the same interest as me,” she said. “It’s pretty fun. There’s an element of meeting people, and the actually getting to compete with them, it’s kind of fun.”
After their round was complete, the girls had very simple goals. Jameson told her mother she wanted to finish a cookie she’d begun eating earlier. The Hegdes said they were looking forward to a good dinner.