Spellers Converge for 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Wed, May 22, 2013 by Chris Kemper

The stage is set for the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee — where international attention will shine on young spellers vying for the coveted title of champion.

The Bee will take place on May 28, 29 and 30 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.

“The Scripps National Spelling Bee is not only a competition but also a cultural celebration of the English language,” said Paige Kimble, executive director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. “When you shine a light on something, it grows, and this event spotlights our mission to inspire children to improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.”

The National Spelling Bee started in 1925 with nine contestants. The E.W. Scripps Company took ownership in 1941 and, after not holding the competition for three years during World War II, has managed the Bee continuously since 1946.

2013 marks the 70th year that Scripps has operated the National Spelling Bee. In that span, the terms “Scripps” and “spelling bee” have become synonymous with one another.

In this, the 86th annual National Spelling Bee, the contestants are as exciting, diverse and complex as the words they will attempt to spell. In a competition where letters and words reign supreme, the numbers also are compelling.

This year, 281 spellers will converge from eight countries: the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, South Korea and the United States. Competitors hail from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Department of Defense Schools in Europe.

This includes 12 semifinalists returning from last year; Arvind Mahankali, the New York City eighth grader who is returning for the fourth time after placing third last year; Vanya Shivashankar, the Olathe, Kan., sixth grader and younger sister of the Bee’s 2009 champion, Kavya Shivashankar; and Tara Singh, the eight-year-old from Louisville, Ky., who is this year’s youngest competitor by more than two years.

The competition began with more than 11 million students participating in classrooms, schools and locally-sponsored spelling bees. Only 281, or the top .00026 percent, will compete in the national championship. From those many millions, only one will rise to the top.

The first day of competition is Tuesday, May 28 and spellers will take to the stage for the first time the following day. ESPN will broadcast the Championship Finals from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, May 30. Other highlights are as follows.

Define the Opportunity:

For the first time, the Scripps National Spelling Bee will formally incorporate the evaluation of vocabulary knowledge as an element of the competition.

This year, the competition will base a speller’s qualification for the Semifinals and Championship Finals on a cumulative score that incorporates onstage spelling, computer-based spelling questions and computer-based vocabulary questions. Because the computer-based tests of spelling and vocabulary are not part of the onstage portion of the Bee, ESPN and its affiliates will not broadcast this component of the competition. Sample vocabulary questions are available (http://bit.ly/SBSBSampleQuestions).

Spellers Rule:
The National Spelling Bee is introducing other rules changes to the competition this year:

  • There will be a 45-minute time limit to take the computer-based spelling and vocabulary test in the Preliminaries and Semifinals. In previous Bees, there was no time limit for taking the computer-based test. In 2012, the median time to take the test was 29 minutes and 34 seconds.
  • If a speller misspells onstage in either Round Two or Three of the Preliminaries, the judge will ring the bell and the speller will exit the competition. In recent years, misspelling in Round Two or Three did not immediately result in elimination.
  • There is a computer-based spelling and vocabulary test during the Semifinals this year. In previous years, the computer-based test took place only in the Preliminaries.
  • In the minutes following the conclusion of Round Six, in general terms no more than 12 spellers will advance as championship finalists. In previous years, the rules did not address the number of spellers to qualify nor the timing to determine the championship finalists.

The complete rules are available (http://bit.ly/SNSB2013Rules) as is an infographic of the competition format (http://bit.ly/SNSB2013Competition).

The Bee on ESPN:

For the 20th consecutive year, ESPN and its family of channels will provide coverage of the Bee with hosts Sage Steele, Paul Loeffler and Samantha Ponder. This includes a play-along version where viewers can test their spelling mettle along with the competitors. The schedule is:

  • Preliminaries on Wednesday, May 29, from 8 to 11:45 a.m. EDT (watch live; play along).  
  • Preliminaries on Wednesday, May 29, from 1:15 to 4:45 p.m. EDT. ESPN3 will broadcast the announcement of semifinalists immediately following the conclusion of Round Three (watch live; play along).
  • Semifinals on Thursday, May 30, from 2 to 5 p.m. EDT. ESPN2 will broadcast the announcement of championship finalists immediately following the conclusion of Round Six (watch live; play along).
  • Championship Finals broadcast live on ESPN on Thursday, May 30 from 8 to 10 p.m. EDT (watch live; play along).

Bee Informed:

A wealth of information about the spellers and the Bee is available at spellingbee.com. This includes profiles about each speller, past winners and their winning words, a sample test, fun facts and, during Bee Week, round results and regular competition updates.

Bee Buzz:

There are many ways to connect with the Scripps National Spelling Bee, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter – the hashtag is #SpellingBee. And thousands of photos will be available to view and download on Flickr.

About the Scripps National Spelling Bee:

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is the nation's largest and longest-running educational program. The purpose of the Scripps National Spelling Bee is to help students improve spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all of their lives. Visit spellingbee.com for more information about the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is administered on a not-for-profit basis by The E.W. Scripps Company.

About Scripps:

Scripps (www.scripps.com) is a leading media enterprise driven to develop and expand its digital strategies while embracing its rich history in delivering quality journalism through television stations, newspapers and the Scripps Howard News Service. Creative, talented and energetic employees are leading the way at 19 television stations and in 13 newspaper markets. The Scripps digital group is growing and gaining momentum with new product offerings, enhancements, and technology that gives customers more options than ever before to find the information and entertainment they crave.

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