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Handicapping The 2009 Spelling Bee

When it comes to handicapping the Spelling Bee, I'm one of the best in the world and I can easily show my work. In 2006, I picked eight spellers who could win and the winner Katherine Close was among my picks.

In 2007, I gave you a Top 10 and the winner Evan O'Dorney was among those. And last year, I did it again with Sameer Mishra (even though I only picked my Top 5). So here goes for four in a row. To up the stakes, I'm taking four kids this time and I'm guaranteeing that one of them will be your champion come Thursday night.

Kavya Shivashankar
Kavya Shivashankar

1. Kavya Shivashankar, Speller No. 110 (Kansas): Every year this girl gets better. For the past three years, she's placed 10th, 8th and 4th, respectively. Spellers of Indian decent have won six out of the last 10 years. My only concern is that the girls have only won two times in the last decade.

Sidharth Chand
Sidharth Chand

2. Sidharth Chand, Speller No. 139 (Michigan): Sidharth really impressed me last year with his second place finish. Equally impressive is his peach fuzz mustache. He's one of three contestants whose bio pictures have mustaches. Perfect for a "Got Milk?" ad should he win it all. We like that Chand says he spends the majority of his weekend studying words.

Vaibhav S. Vavilala
Vaibhav S. Vavilala

3. Vaibhav S. Vavilala, Speller No. 97 (Indiana): Not only has Vaibhav participated in three national finals, his brother Vikas also had a national finals appearance. Family history in this contest is often a good indicator. So is the fact that Vaibhav had his 14th birthday last week, but refuses to celebrate until after the Spelling Bee is done.

Kyle Mou
Kyle Mou

4. Kyle Mou, Speller No. 88 (Illinois): Kyle has been in the finals twice and I was impressed with his Top 10 performance last year. I especially felt good about his correct spelling of the words cryptarithm and trochiline. The negative? He's blogging for his local paper. I don't like anything that could take away from his last minute push.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com