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All over Charles County, young people are obsessively going over lists of arcane words, muttering strange syllables in pursuit of a valuable prize. Witchcraft? Nope, spelling bee.

The annual Charles County bee, sponsored by the Maryland Independent, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, the College of Southern Maryland and Chaney Enterprises, will begin at 6 p.m. Friday at Mattawoman Middle School at 10145 Berry Road in Waldorf.

Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade spellers from public and private schools and home-schoolers of appropriate age and grade equivalent compete word for word until one champion speller remains. There is also a team championship.

Mattawoman Principal Douglass Dolan said he and students and staff at Mattawoman look forward to hosting the bee this year.

Several spelling bee champions from Mattawoman, have won the bee, including last year’s winner, Andre Winkfield.

The individual champion will attend the Scripps National Spelling Bee at the Gaylord National Hotel in Oxon Hill. Bee Week runs from May 27 through June 1. The national bee is televised on ESPN.

The county champion also will receive Merriam-Webster’s Third New International Dictionary and its addenda section, along with the Samuel Louis Sugarman Award — a prize award of approximately $50 value. Also, the local champion will receive a one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

Second prize will be Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition, along with an gift certificate and a one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

Third prize will be an gift certificate and a one-year subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica Online.