AVON -- After being cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, the Scripps National Spelling Bee is set to return this summer, and a central Minnesota teen will be among the competitors.

Eliana Szabo is an 8th grade home school student from Avon. Back in February she won the Central Minnesota Spelling Bee for the second year in a row and advanced to the Multi-Regional State Spelling Bee.

Self-described as “very competitive,” Szabo has been participating in spelling bees since the age of 11 and says this year’s state contest came down to multiple tiebreakers.

First, it was twenty questions and I got all twenty right. Another girl did too so we had to have a tiebreaker and I got eight out of ten and the other speller did too. Then we had to have one more tiebreaker, so those were all very, very, very stressful for me.

In her final year of eligibility, Szabo is finding many unique ways to prepare for the national stage including being quizzed by her parents, typing out the words, and placing sticky notes with the toughest words all around her house.

Several years ago, Szabo suffered a brain hemorrhage and had to relearn how to walk and talk. Now, she says overcoming those obstacles helped her realize she can do anything she sets her mind to.

It's definitely made me a harder worker and more willing to work for things I want.

When she is not studying for school or spelling bees, Szabo fills her time with a wide variety of activities including learning mandarin Chinese, playing with her dog, studying neurology, sewing, playing piano, singing, ballet, and making iMovies. After the spelling competition is over, she is setting her sights on the International Brain Bee.

Because of the pandemic, the preliminary, quarterfinal, and semifinal rounds of the national bee will be held virtually throughout the month of June. Ten to twelve finalists will then advance to the in-person final round in Orlando, Florida on July 8th.

That round will also be broadcast on ESPN2.

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