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In May, Southern Maryland will send three representatives to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will take place at National Harbor in Oxon Hill.

Jennifer Tennant, 13, of Father Andrew White School will represent St. Mary’s County. She earned that right after outlasting 32 other students earlier this month at the county bee by correctly spelling “hearth,” “affinity,” “herbivore,” “plausible,” “exuberant,” “acronym,” “mistletoe,” “protagonist,” “susceptible,” “succotash” and “macrame.”

Aashka Patel, 13, of Milton M. Somers Middle School in La Plata will represent Charles County at the national bee. Selena Antosh, 13, of Calvert Middle School will represent Calvert County.

Southern Maryland Newspapers, which includes The Enterprise and our sister newspapers, the Maryland Independent and The Calvert Recorder, are proud to sponsor these competitions for middle school students each year, in partnership with the public school systems, the College of Southern Maryland, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative and Chaney Enterprises.

The Enterprise has been sponsoring the St. Mary’s County Spelling Bee for 36 years. Why, in the age of computerized spell check, does a spelling bee still matter? For one thing because this is also the age of autocorrect, which, as those who text rapidly on cellphones know, can choose words the writer doesn’t intend. It helps to be able to recognize that.

Spelling still counts. So does attention to detail. So does discipline and study. And so does being willing to stand up in front of a crowd in a high-pressure situation to face the unknown. That’s what all of the young people, most of whom range in age between 11 and 13, did when they stood before a microphone at the local spelling bees. It’s what the three representatives from Southern Maryland will be aiming to do again at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The final rounds of the national bee will be televised live on ESPN. It is compelling television, a high-stakes competition with tension that mounts as spellers tackle increasingly tougher words. In many cases neither the students nor the audience watching has ever heard of these words before.

Our Southern Maryland winners are preparing now to test their mettle against the best spellers from around the country and U.S. territories at the end of May. They’ll be treated to a week of activities leading up to a couple of elimination rounds of tests that will lead to those televised later rounds.

Tennant, Patel and Antosh have already earned the recognition and rewards of taking on a nerve-wracking public challenge. Whatever happens at National Harbor in May will only add to that achievement.