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Out of 9 million spellers across the nation, Ben Crowder of Orem will be among the elite 247 competing in the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., May 29 and 30.

Ben, 12, won a chance to participate in the national spelling bee by taking the top prize at the Deseret News Utah Spelling Bee Finals, held March 29th, winning an all-expense-paid trip to the national competition courtesy of the Deseret News. It was his second attempt.Although the national competition lasts just two days, spellers are assembled for nearly a week. During "Bee Week" participants are treated to an ice cream social, a barbecue, a beach party, an awards banquet and tours of 12 historic sites in the nation's capital. A spelling bee competition for parents is also held in which Ben's mother, Tina Crowder, will participate.

The competition will be stiff at the 1996 national spelling bee. All of the 247 spellers are sponsored by a local newspaper or media outlet. Participants come from all states as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Samoa and Guam. In addition, English-language newspapers in Mexico, Germany, Japan and Saudi Arabia send spellers to the finals.

The national bee originated in 1925 with nine contestants. Scripps Howard has run the bee since 1941. It also supports literacy education through grants awarded by the Scripps Howard Foundation.

This year was the 20th year the Deseret News has sponsored the Utah statewide contest with the purpose of helping Utah students in the 4th through 8th grades improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies and learn concepts to develop correct English language usage.

Students across the state from public, private, parochial and home schools began learning contest words last November and have participated in local classroom, grade level, school, and district bees before progressing to the state spelling bee.

Ben Crowder's spelling history has been a little different from most Utah students because he is a home schooler. As a result, he participated in only one home school "district" bee before progressing to the state contest. But that isn't to say that our Utah spelling representative does not have extensive bee experience.

Ben finished fourth in the 1995 Deseret News Utah Spelling Bee Finals.

Besides coverage in the Deseret News, two popular cable channels will bring the proceedings of the spelling bee into Utah family rooms. ESPN2 will carry the final rounds live between 4 and 6 p.m. on May 30. CNBC will air a televised special on the bee from 8 to 9 p.m. on three consecutive nights, Friday, May 31, through Sunday June 2.