NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Three-time California State Spelling Bee champion Ananya Vinay of Fresno breezed through Wednesday’s preliminary rounds of the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling “anabolic” and “normative” and is headed to Thursday’s nationally televised final.

“It was really cool” to hear her name announced as a finalist, said the sixth-grader from Clovis Unified’s Fugman Elementary School. “I’m really, really excited to be competing tomorrow.”

She first competed in the National Spelling Bee in 2016, qualifying out of the Fresno County Spell-Off that’s sponsored by the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools office in partnership with The Fresno Bee. Other sponsors include Fresno State, Chevron, Granville Homes, EECU Credit Union, the Shops at River Park and the ERC grant writing firm.

Ananya said her 2016 experience made this year’s competition less scary. She said she “plans to just take one word at a time” on Thursday.

In addition to her making it through rounds two and three Wednesday, the 12-year-old received a qualifying score on Tuesday’s written exam.

Sameera Hussain, a 14-year-old at Sequoia Middle School in Porterville, spelled both of her words correctly, but her score on the written exam was not high enough to nudge her into the finals. As an eighth-grader, this was Sameera’s last chance to compete in the National Spelling Bee.

Of the 291 contestants who qualified for the National Spelling Bee, only 40 made the finals. Ananya and Sameera competed against students from all over the country, including 16 from California. Besides Ananya, five other Californians are in the finals.

This year’s field included the youngest entrant in the 90-year history of the National Spelling Bee, 6-year-old Edith Fuller from Tulsa, Okla. She did not advance.

Ananya’s parents, her 7-year-old brother Achuth and her grandmother joined her at the competition, which is being held in a Washington, D.C., suburb at the Gaylord National Harbor Hotel and Convention Center. It is the 90th time the National Spelling Bee has been held.

Internet study group

Both central San Joaquin Valley girls have joined a network of spellers from across the country who stay in touch and practice throughout the year.

Ananya’s friends live as far away as Oklahoma and Louisiana, but she joins them on Google Hangouts several times a week to practice spelling.

“We just do random quizzing together,” she said, and is hopeful that her study trick – practicing spelling by typing words – will take her all the way.

Sameera said that she had prepared for the competition this year by studying “a lot more roots and patterns and was more confident about my spelling abilities.”

Even though she did not make the finals, Sameera said she has grown as a speller throughout her three years of competition, and looks forward to devoting her spare time to other activities.

Both made it through the first three rounds, which consist of Tuesday’s written test and two rounds onstage Wednesday where spellers can be instantly eliminated if they spell a word wrong.

Spellers had to accumulate 29 points to make it to the finals.

Thursday’s final begins at 7 a.m. PDT and lasts several hours. At 3 p.m. PDT, the remaining spellers take a written test to be used in case of a tie when Part 2 of the finals is held beginning at 5:30 p.m. PDT.

The winner receives a $40,000 cash prize and the Scripps National Spelling Bee engraved trophy.

This article originally appeared in the Fresno Bee.