Spellers ages 7-15 traveled across the United States and from as far away as Guam to compete on Thursday for the title of “Champion” in the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee.
The challenging words the spellers face range from those with just a few letters like ‘luge,’ a small toboggan, to those that stretch through the alphabet like ‘scherenschnitte,’ a papercutting art form.
This year’s contest is being held just outside of Washington, in National Harbor, Maryland.
Last year, when Zaila Avant-garde, 14, from New Orleans correctly spelled “Murraya,” a genus of plants, she became the first African American to win the prestigious competition that began in 1925.
Competitors this year include 105 girls, 128 boys, and one speller who identifies as non-binary.
The winner takes home $50,000 cash from Scripps, plus further money prizes and reference works from Merriam-Webster and Encyclopedia Britannica.
The Bee is televised live. Play-by-play commentary heightens the excitement as contestants wrack their brains to come up with the correct spellings for often obscure words.
In 2019, an eight-way tie included such mind-bending winning words as ‘erysipelas,’ a skin infection; ‘auslaut,’ the final sound in a word or syllable; ‘palama,’ webbing on the feet of aquatic birds; ‘pendeloque,’ a pear-shaped gemstone or glass pendant; ‘odylic,’ related to a hypothetical life force; ‘cernuous,’ drooping, ‘bougainvillea,’ a climbing plant; and ‘aiguillette,’ the braided ornament on military uniforms.
After 27 years of being broadcast live on the cable sports channel ESPN, this year’s live show was moved to ION and Bounce, both networks owned by a Scripps subsidiary. The show’s host is actor LeVar Burton.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)