Brent Henderson, an eighth grader from Moreland Ridge Middle School in Blue Springs, will be competing in the semi-finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Brent Henderson’s goal was to make it to the semi-finals of the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Why? Because the semi-finals are aired live on ESPN.

Well the eighth grader from Moreland Ridge Middle School in Blue Springs got his wish – he is among the 41 semi-finalists who will compete Thursday for a chance to be called National Spelling Bee Champion.

“I am really excited,” Brent said by telephone Wednesday night. “My goal was to make it to the semi-finals, and that is what I did. I am thrilled about it.”

Henderson, 14, made it through the first three rounds, scoring high on the round one written test and spelling correctly the words “discreet” in the second round and “oleiferous” (producing oil) in the third round. The competition started with 293 spellers. The only other student from the Kansas City area to advance is Olathe eighth grader Kavya Shivashankar, who has made three appearances in the national finals. She placed fourth last year.

This is Brent’s last chance to compete at the National Spelling Bee. The competition is only for students in eighth grade or below.

Brent said he felt good about the written test, but when round two came, he was not positive if he spelled “discreet” correctly.

“Round two was difficult, so I am glad I got that one right. But the word in round three came from a pre-determined list of 500 words that I had studied a lot,” he said. “I just tried my hardest, and I am happy that I get to continue competing.”

This is the second year that Brent has competed at the National Spelling Bee as the Jackson County winner.

Last year, he did not advance past the preliminaries because the combined scores of the written test and oral rounds were not high enough.

Don Henderson, Brent’s father, said they could not be happier about Brent’s success so far. He said when Brent’s number was called during the semi-final announcement, the family tried to react quietly, out of respect for those spellers who did not make it, but it was hard to contain their excitement.

“All the kids here are just amazing in their own right,” he said. “We thought he would have a chance. He worked really hard this year and his dream was to make it to the ESPN round.”

The semifinals will be aired live on ESPN, beginning at 9 a.m. today. The finals are at 7 p.m., live on ABC, Comcast Channel 12.

“I think it is just great to be on ESPN,” Brent said. “It would be nice to spell one word right on TV, though. If I had a goal, that would be it.”