PORTLAND — Thirteen spellers will face off today in the Portland Press Herald Maine State Spelling Bee.

They’ve already conquered the likes of “analgesia,” “predicate,” “infatuation” and “hypothesis” to get this far. They’ve been practicing at home and on the way to the orthodontist, studying patterns in other languages and remembering to keep their cool in preparation for today.

In addition to taking home the state title, the winner of today’s competition will earn a spot in the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

The state bee will begin at 2 p.m. at the University of Southern Maine’s Hannaford Hall in Portland. Admission is free.

The spellers have advanced from district and county bees. They represent the 13 Maine counties that held bees at that level. They are fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders whose other interests range from cheerleading to cello to reading to Wii.

Hosting the spelling bee finals for all of Maine is an incredible honor, said Richard L. Connor, CEO of MaineToday Media and publisher of the three daily and Sunday newspapers in Portland, Augusta and Waterville.

“Shortly after we purchased these newspapers, one of employees, sportswriter Glenn Jordan, informed us that the sponsorship was open. In fact, the spelling bee’s fate for Maine was in serious danger. We knew that sponsoring a competition of this nature was not only a great opportunity for us but also a responsibility to the students of our state and education in general that we could not shirk,” Connor said. “The credit for keeping the spelling bee alive really goes to Glenn, not the media company.”

Jordan’s daughter, Lily, is the Cumberland County champion.

The pronouncer for the state bee will be Jeannine Uzzi, associate professor of classical studies at the University of Southern Maine.

The judges will be Michael Ashmore, director of the Maine Transition Network, Karen W. Baldacci, Maine’s first lady, and Shirley Helfrich, a retired library consultant for the Maine State Library.