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PREVIOUS COVERAGE | Haile’s speller moves to Day 2 of National Spelling Bee

Vincent Franco and parents Bob and Helene planned to eat at a Chinese restaurant Wednesday evening in Washington, D.C.

Dad had high hopes for the message in his son’s fortune cookie.

Today Vincent, a modest Haile Middle School honors eighth-grader, is among 273 youths from around America and overseas vying for a top-50 spot in the prestigious Scripps National Spelling Bee at the Grand Hyatt Washington.

“I’m a little nervous, but I’m still practicing and studying the words,” the 14-year-old said from his hotel room. “Everyone wants me to make the semifinals — my teachers, my friends.”

His parents, too.

“I get more nervous than him,” Bob Franco said.

Vincent has already gotten through Day 1.

Points for correct spellings in Wednesday’s 50-word round 1 computerized test will be added to scores earned during today’s rounds 2 and 3 before a live audience.

Only 50 will advance to Friday’s semifinals. The grand prize is $30,000.

“That’s a lot of money,” said Vincent. “I’d save some for college and spend some on something fun.”

And fun is something he and his parents had going sightseeing.

So far they’ve seen the Washington Monument, White House, Jefferson Memorial and Lincoln Memorial, plus the World War II Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

“It’s a pretty big place, a lot to see and it’s a lot busier here, too.” Vincent said. “It’s amazing.”

“He’s having a blast,” his dad said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055.

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