Three dozen of the region's top spellers, including four from York County, are competing Saturday to get the rarest of spelling glory -- an invitation to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Derek Etter, 13, said he's always considered himself a "spelling freak."

"I don't like when things are spelled wrong," the seventh-grader said.

After winning Red Lion Junior High School's spelling bee, Derek qualified to take a written test with WITF. He passed that, too, and earned a spot in Saturday's WITF Central PA Spelling Bee.

Focal point: His school's spelling bee started off nerve-wracking, he said, as it's "hard to focus" when everyone is watching you try to spell something like "chastise."

"You're thinking, you're standing there, not knowing what you're going to say," said Derek, who won on the word "cooperate."

Derek will join Central York Middle School's Alex Byrne and Edward Trippett Jr. as well as York Suburban Middle School's Anne Baskwill among the York County contingent.

They are among the 36 sixth- through eighth-grade students who did the best out of the 150 students who took the written test in the qualifying round.

The regional championship, which will be broadcast on WITF-TV at 6 p.m. Sunday, is held at the WITF Public Media Center. For more information, visit www.witf.org.

-- Reach Andrew Shaw at ashaw@yorkdispatch.com