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20 finalists are set to compete in 85th News Spelling Bee

Twenty students from throughout Western New York will compete in oral finals of the 85th annual Buffalo News Spelling Bee at 1:30 p.m. March 4 in the auditorium of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society on Nottingham Court.

The finalists are the top scorers in the written test, which was administered to 68 school champions earlier this month.

The 2012 finalists are:

Cierra Grimaldi, an eighth-grader at Cuba-Rushford Central; Thomas Wrabetz, an eighth-grader at Nichols School; Kaleigh Hunt, an eighth-grader at Ellicottville Central; Sachita Barua, an eighth-grader at Olean Middle; Seth Schrader, a sixth-grader at Fredonia Middle; Nabeel Rahman, an eighth-grader at Casey Middle; Clare Pivarunas, a seventh-grader at Children of Mary in Lockport; Kristiyan Iliev, a seventh-grader at Depew Middle; Madeline McCoy, a sixth-grader at Grace LEAH homeschool in Hamburg; Bridget Hyland, an eighth-grader at Heim Middle in Amherst;

Also Steven Neumaier, an eighth-grader at Lancaster Middle; Stephanie Kustreba, an eighth-grader at Mill Middle in Williamsville; Annamaria Sauer, an eighth-grader at SS. Peter and Paul in Williamsville; Benjamin Frawley, a seventh-grader at St. Christopher in the Town of Tonawanda; Ananya Nrusimha, an eighth-grader at Transit Middle in East Amherst; Russell Cunningham, a seventh-grader at Byron-Bergen Middle in Bergen; Lucas Ayers, an eighth-grader at Livonia Intermediate; Kyle Moeller, a seventh-grader at Barker Central; Catie Fike, an eighth-grader at DeSales Catholic in Lockport; and Beatrice Bacon, a seventh-grader at Royalton Hartland Middle, Middleport.

The winner of the March 4 competition, along with an adult escort, will travel on an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to represent The News and Western New York in the Scripps National Bee during the last week of May.

The local title also carries a $100 cash award, $50 in additional spending money for the trip and an engraved pen and pencil set. The next top four finishers will receive an engraved pen and pencil set along with these cash prizes: second, $75; third, $50; fourth, $35; and fifth, $25. A special $25 cash award will be given to the contestant scoring the highest grade on the written test. This prize will be announced at the bee.

Other prizes to be given out at the competition include: Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged; the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award; Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition; and gifts from the Scripps National Spelling Bee and The Buffalo News.

In May, all champions from schools registered in the 2012 Buffalo News Spelling Bee will receive a dictionary, thesaurus or other reference book from The News. There will also be a certificate of merit for each school runner-up.

The pronouncer for the March 4 bee will be Cynthia Pearson, retired South Park High School English teacher.

Judges will be Kathleen Kreis, former director of English and Library Services for the Buffalo Public Schools; Ann Laudisio, principal at Maplemere Elementary School in Amherst; and Deborah Patti, bee coordinator.

Emcee for the competition will be Bruce Andriatch, suburban editor and columnist at The News.

Kreis and Pearson prepared both the written and oral tests. Since 1927, The News, in cooperation with area schools, has sponsored the spelling bee for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students in the nine-county Western New York area.