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Spelling Bee semifinalist runs imaginary club, loves chili

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Posted at 12:35 PM, May 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-28 13:08:45-04

Owen Kovalik has a big imagination. Since he was little, he’s run an imaginary club of about half a dozen friends.

Membership in the club has changed over the years, he said. No word on if he’s accepting new members. Owen’s spelling strategy is to put that imagination to good use.

“I visualize it in my mind,” he said, “And ask as many questions as possible.”

That gives him time to get a deep breath and take a few seconds to calm his nerves.

Owen, 12, from Akron, Ohio, said he wishes he could bring his violin or clarinet to the Spelling Bee — but it would annoy the other hotel guests.

He enjoys videogames, robotics and the best chili on Earth — Cincinnati chili.

“It’s a great honor to be competing at the national level,” Owen said. “I’m very excited, it’s been a lot of fun.”

Owen correctly spelled “tiple” in the semifinals — a kind of small guitar. But he misspelled "'xenodochium" and got the bell.

Watch the Bee semifinals May 28 beginning at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2. The finals begin at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. Follow all the Bee action on Twitter at @ScrippsBee.

Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk.