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North Andover

How do you spell that? Ask 8-year-old Ashrita

Ashrita Gandhari has been winning spelling bees since first grade.

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis — a lung disease — is the longest word in any major English dictionary. One local 8-year-old has the spelling down, and can also spin out Mary Poppins’ supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

On Feb. 25, Ashrita Gandhari of North Andover won the St. Michael School’s spelling bee for the third year in a row. She is moving on to the regional Scripps Spelling Bee , where she will compete against other students from first to eighth grade on March 11 at the Memorial Auditorium in Lynn.

As a first-grader, she came in 10th against more than 60 competitors, some more than twice her age. Last year, she came in third. This year, she hopes to take first and advance to the nationals May 22-27 in National Harbor, Md.

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Her parents, Bharat Gandhari and Sirisha Bhumireddy, are very proud of their daughter. They help her study etymology, the meaning and origin of words.

“It’s too hard to memorize every word,” Ashrita said. “So I learn patterns and rules.”

Ashrita’s spelling started at 1½ years old. As a baby, she was very interested in puzzles and liked looking at books and newspapers. By age 3, she was reading.

“People would say, ‘Why is this girl here, is she with her [older] sister?’” Bhumireddy said. “No, she’s the speller.”

“Don’t judge me by how young I am,” Ashrita added.

A bright and witty girl, she splits her time between studying, soccer, basketball, piano, and dance. She said her friends think she is smart and has a good future.

“I want to be a NASA astronaut,” Ashrita said. “My favorite subjects are math and science, but I also like reading.”

Bhumireddy said their younger daughter, Anvita, 6, is following in her sister’s footsteps and loves to read and spell, but as a kindergartener is not yet eligible for spelling bees. When she is old enough, Ashrita has some words of wisdom to pass along:

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“Concentrate. Focus only on the words, and nothing else,” she advised. “Just spell.”


Christina Bagni can be reached at christina.bagni@globe.com.