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WASHINGTON -- Forty-six of the nation's best young spellers have taken the stage for the nerve-jangling semifinal rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

No more than 12 will advance to the finals Thursday evening. They'll have to spell two words correctly in front of a national television audience and then hope their score on a computerized spelling and vocabulary test is high enough to make the cut.

The semifinalists include last year's third-place finisher, 14-year-old Sriram Hathwar of Corning, New York, and two other finalists from 2013: 12-year-old Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas, and 13-year-old Syamantak Payra of Friendswood, Texas. Syamantak and 13-year-old Mary Horton of West Melbourne, Florida, tied for highest score on the computer test.

The Chronicle reports that 13-year-old Shobha Dasari, also of the Houston area, will also compete this year.

The semifinals are broadcast live on ESPN2.

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