ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) – What started on Tuesday with 234 spellers is now down to 12 fierce competitors, one of them being Shijay Sivakumar an 8th-grader from Bowie Middle School.

Sivakumar has been the Regional Spelling Bee champ from Odessa for three straight years but due to COVID-19, this is the first time in that stretch the national bee has been held in person. Sivakumar advanced through the seventh round of the competition on Wednesday, correctly spelling the word “bandurria” which is a Spanish stringed instrument of the lute family.

The finals of the 94th Scripps National Spelling Bee will conclude Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. with the 12 youngsters vying for the title. The finals will air live on ION platforms.

According to the Scripps National Spelling Bee website, this year’s contest includes students representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Department of Defense Schools in Europe. They also represent the Bahamas, Canada, Germany and Ghana.