For V.I. champ its soccer, friends and books at Bee

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Virgin Islands spelling champion Manav Thadani will compete in the 87th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee outside Washington, D.C. today.

He took the computerized vocabulary test - the preliminary round - on Tuesday.

If he spells his word in Round 2 correctly, he will advance to Round 3. If he spells that word correctly as well, his vocabulary test will determine if he advances to the semifinals.

"I feel pretty good and I feel pretty confident about the test I took today," Manav told The Daily News on Tuesday afternoon.

"It's really nice to be here relaxing and studying at the same time."

Manav, his mother and his coach arrived in Washington over the weekend and attended a welcome reception and barbecue for all the nation's top spellers.

Manav said they played a huge game of soccer - 25 players on each team - and he scored two goals for his team.

In between study sessions, he has spent time catching up with friends he met last year at the bee and those he met at the national Mathcounts competition held earlier this month.

Manav's spelling coach and mom, Sonya Swan, said it is a little easier the second time because they know what to expect and how important the vocabulary test is.

"It does feel good to be a veteran, or be here for the second time," Swan said. "I think he feels more comfortable this time around."

Last year, Manav spelled his words correctly, but his vocabulary test did not score high enough to propel him into the semifinals.

The 13-year-old's mother, Asha Thadani, said her son has been enjoying himself, but once the competition began Tuesday, he started to get a little nervous.

"He's nervous. I can see that he's under pressure now," she said. "The media is there, standing out on the stage is totally different from the stage at home. Everybody gets nervous here, the parents get nervous, the children get nervous. It's not easy and everybody is looking at you."

Manav competes at 10 a.m. today and the event will be streamed live on ESPN 3 at

He is speller number 250.

If he advances to the next round, he will compete in Round 3 at 3 p.m., which will be streamed live on ESPN 2.

Regardless of whether he advances to the semifinals, he will be sitting on stage at the final showdown as a representative of the Virgin Islands.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email

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