A 13-year-old boy from University City advanced today to the semifinal round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., continuing his bid to be named the country's best student speller.

After taking a 50-word computerized test on Tuesday, Alex J. Clifton Wells, an eighth-grader at Standley Middle School, correctly spelled "mince" and "amadelphous" -- meaning gregarious -- today to reach the semifinals.

The initial field of 293 students was narrowed to 41 semifinalists after the conclusion of the first three rounds of the bee. The semifinal round will begin at 7 a.m. California time Thursday, followed by the championship round at 5 p.m.

The semifinal round can be seen live on ESPN, while the finals will be shown on ABC, tape-delayed on the West Coast, at 8 p.m.

The spelling bee is limited to students in eighth grade or below, with this year's contestants ranging in age from 9 to 15. Two-thirds of the contestants are aged 13 or 14.

In addition to spelling, Wells is an accomplished musician who plays the bassoon, piano and clarinet. He also composes symphony and chamber music and has performed with local and statewide honor bands. He hopes to become a composer and symphony conductor.

The winner of the spelling bee will receive $30,000 from Scripps, $5,000 from the Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond from the dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster, and reference works from Encyclopaedia Britannica valued at $3,600.

Only one Southern Californian has ever won the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which began in 1925. Anurag Kashyap of Poway won in 2005.