Minnesota is drawing closer to completing its field of five spelling whizzes who will vie for national television fame — and a nice stack of cash — at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in suburban Washington, D.C.

A fourth Minnesota youngster will earn the honor on Thursday, when several dozen schoolkids match spelling wits at the Tornstrom Auditorium in Brainerd.

Already bound for national spelling glory from the state are: Shane DeSilva, an eighth-grader from Pacelli Catholic Schools in Austin; Kellen Rodriguez, an eighth-grader in the Fairmont School District; and Alyssa Boynton, a seventh-grader at Murray County Central.

The Twin Cities competition among 50 entrants on March 15 at Augsburg College in Minneapolis will determine the final Minnesota qualifier for the 87th annual National Bee, which runs from May 25-31 in National Harbor, Md.

The 2013 champion was Arvind Mahankali, a 13-year-old from Bayside Hills, N.Y. Mahankali won after correctly spelling "knaidel," which is a dumpling.

Along with lots of face time on ESPN, the winner also receives $30,000 cash, scholarship money and other prizes.

Minnesota has had one national spelling champion, Sean Conley of Shakopee, in 2001.

Paul Walsh