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Chance for sibling 1st at National Spelling Bee

OXON HILL, Md. — She looks like her sister. She spells like her sister, tracing the letters on her palm as she calls out the letters. Her goal is become the back half of the first set of sibling champions in National Spelling Bee history.

Eleven-year-old Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kan., qualified Wednesday for the semifinals of the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee. She handled ‘‘intaglio’’ and ‘‘horologium’’ with no problem.

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‘‘My sister’s more like a bubbly person,’’ said Vanya’s sister, 2009 champion Kavya Shivashankar.

‘‘You can see that onstage, that she’s really excited to be there. I think I felt the same way, but it just showed differently.’’

Forty-two of the 281 spellers advanced, having tallied the most points in a formula that combined Wednesday’s onstage rounds with a computer test that included a section on vocabulary for the first time.

The semifinals are Thursday afternoon, with the finals set for Thursday night. The winner gets $30,000 in cash and prizes and a huge trophy.

Making the cut are several returning favorites, including a speller with a sibling story similar to the Shivashankars.

Thirteen-year-old Arvind Mahankali of New York, who finished third each of the last two years, is getting eager support from 9-year-old brother Srinath.

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