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Teen again excels in world of words

Having dispensed with "palooka," the former Citrus student will compete in the National Scripps Howard Spelling Bee in May.

Former Crystal River Middle School spelling phenomenon Edwin Chen, who now attends Lincoln Middle School in Gainesville, has done it again. He is headed to Washington, D.C., to compete in the National Scripps Howard Spelling Bee at the end of May.

Edwin, 13, correctly spelled fronton and then palooka to clinch the Jacksonville regional spelling title. He asked only once for a word to be repeated and only once for a definition, such was his confidence, said his mother, Grace Chen.

His parents moved Edwin to Gainesville so he could attend Lincoln Middle, which has a magnet program for the academically talented. For high school he has been accepted and given a scholarship to Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va.

"This is a very, very good school," Grace Chen said.

Besides his excellent ability to spell, which his mother says comes from a good memory and voracious reading, Edwin does well in math. He won a first place at the 2000 Citrus County Math Field Day in Algebra I.

Having achieved one of the five highest SAT scores in Florida through the Duke University Talent Identification Search for seventh-graders, Edwin has been invited to take a college level course this summer at Stetson University.

"He always does his best," said Grace Chen.

This will be Edwin's second attempt to win the National Spelling Bee. He placed ninth in 1999.