Great Neck’s Brian Liu, 11, heads to Scripps National Spelling Bee

Great Neck’s Brian Liu, 11,  heads to Scripps National Spelling Bee
Great Neck North Middle School's Brian Liu. (Photo courtesy of Great Neck North Middle School)

Great Neck North Middle School sixth-grader Brian Liu said his mother, Shutting Peng, told him to “enjoy and have fun” participating in the ScholarSkills Long Island Spelling Bee.

The advice clearly worked for Liu, 11, after defeating the 47 other spellers at Half Hollow Hills High School in Dix Hills March 24 and becoming Long Island’s representative at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., next month.

While some may choose to bask in the glow of victory and soak up every minute of stardom they can, Liu said the local praise can be a bit much at times, but appreciates everyone cheering him on.

“It feels good to be representing Long Island for the National Spelling Bee, but sometimes when I get too much attention, it feels kind of awkward,” Liu told Blank Slate Media Tuesday. “I want to thank [everyone] for their support and encouragement.”

Before making it to the ScholarSkills Long Island Spelling Bee, Liu had to ace Great Neck North Middle School’s own spelling bee in January. The competition featured 43 6th, 7th and 8th-grade students who participated. It took Liu 10 rounds to win the competition and realize he might have some spelling talent.

“After the school round, I realized I was actually pretty good at spelling and so I started to study harder,” Liu said.

Liu said he spent hours studying thousands of words from a book provided to each of the spellers. He clinched the victory by spelling “bolognese,” which has dual definitions and pronunciations.

One of the most difficult words, he said, was “tokonoma,” a decorative space for displaying flowers and ornaments in a Japanese-style room. Spelling out the word on his finger, he said, helped him realize he needed to use an ‘o’ rather than an ‘i’.

Studying words with prefixes and suffixes of Latin and Greek origins, he said, helped him claim victory in the Long Island Spelling Bee against students hailing from Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties.

Rounding out the top three was Aadita Prajapati, a seventh-grade student at Willets Road School in Roslyn Heights who came in second and Zara Anand, a fifth-grade student at Jeffrey Ratner-Robert Seaman Elementary School in Jericho, who came in third.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee will begin May 30 and run until June 1.

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