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Rego Park spelling wiz heading to finals

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Snigdha Sur, a calm and bespectacled 11-year-old, sat quietly in her principal’s office last week in Rego Park’s PS 175 while the adults hovered in frenzied excitement around her. Snigdha had just won the New York Daily News’ 37th annual citywide spelling bee.

“We’re very proud of her. This was quite an accomplishment,” said her principal, Pearl Schulson, with a broad smile and a slight gush.

Snigdha will soon be bound for Washington, D.C. for the national competition and on April 4 will make a special guest appearance on the morning television show “Live with Regis and Kelly.”

Snigdha competed against 40 other students in the March 14 spelling competition at the High School of Fashion Industries in Manhattan.

The spell-off’s climax came when Snigda faced her final competitor and was asked by the judges to spell “febrility.”

To seal her first place she was then presented with “erudition,” a word and concept that Snigdha soon revealed was not unfamiliar to her.

Asked about her nerves during those final moments, the serene fifth grader, dressed in a floral blouse and blue jeans, a book clasped between her hands, leaned forward and paused, “I just had to focus and think before I spelled.”

Her teacher, Iris Waxman, confessed that she was the one who was nervous. When her prize student was asked to spell “heiress,” Waxman panicked.

“What if she hadn’t read that word? Or if she had, how would she know that the h was silent?” But her worries were all for naught, Snigdha was well versed with silent h’s and the like.

“Whenever I see a word, it’s in my memory for the rest of my life.” the young bibliophile said.

Snigdha developed a love of reading, she said, in part because she was an only child. “I have no sister or brother to play with and reading holds my interest for hours and hours.”

It is her reading, Waxman said, that prepared her for the spelling contest. But in addition to her reading were Snigdha’s warm-up competitions of prior years in which she had placed third and second. The pupil also prepared with aid of spelling tapes, which helped her to recognize pronunciations of the words the judges might select.

Snigdha, who lives with her parents, Shakti and Chaitanyu Sur in Rego Park, expects to enroll in Hunter College’s middle school in Manhattan next year. As a youngster, Snigdha had been accepted into Hunter’s program for gifted students, but with her physician father based at Jamaica Hospital, the family decided she should stay in Queens.

The staff of PS 175 is pleased she did.

Reach reporter Jennifer Warren by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

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