The Scripps National Spelling Bee brought many changes this year, making the competition fiercer than ever.
The Scripps’ Spelling Bee has challenged students on the national stage for decades. It’s an educational standard which has experienced some changes over the years, regarding students’ backgrounds like how they are educated and where they come from, but this is the first year that the competition has been significantly altered. Instead of just requiring participants to spell out difficult words, they are also challenged with a verbal vocabulary portion.
The spelling bee has been in operation for over 90 years. Students are asked to come onstage and properly spell words to compete with other children. There was a written vocabulary portion offered in the past, but this year the vocabulary test is being displayed on stage as well. Students who have previously competed and advanced are not used to this new format, and so some promising contenders have not advanced as expected.
Spelling bee participants must now come onstage and verbally choose the proper definition of words from a multiple choice offering. This is the first time the competition has been held in-person in three years and the semifinalists are testing their skills in a new way by connecting the words they know with meaning through memory and verbal skills instead of relying on a visual written test. The changes have led to some serious upsets, but also advancements for new students.
Co-champions of the 2022 SpellPundit online competition, Vuppala and Yash Shelar, have already been eliminated from this year’s Scripps Spelling Bee along with a few past finalists. This year’s finals was hosted by LeVar Burton last night. Interest in the competition has increased, sparking more spectators and they were given quite a show.
Harini Logan and Vikram Raju missed back-to-back words. This pair advanced through 18 rounds after competing with 11 million students who were narrowed down to 232 for the stage. Both finalists had some struggles which led to a fast-paced spell-off. For the first time in the spelling bee’s long history, each competitor was given just 90 seconds to spell as many words as possible. Each worked through the pressure to offer their best. Raju spelled 15 words correctly in that short span, but Logan won the title by spelling 21.
The competition has drawn more interest over the years as it grows more intense and makes history. Harini Logan’s story is one of resilience in itself. She competed in the Scripps Spelling Bee three times before. In her first year, she placed 323rd and tied for 30th place in 2019 and last year. She was even eliminated from the vocabulary round for a short time this year, until judges reviewed her definition of “pullulation,” which she determined as the nesting habits of mating birds. Although usually correlated to pollination, or breeding, judges reviewed the definition and reinstated her for noting breeding habits.
The changes to the vocabulary round caused some confusion and drama, but in the end, the spelling bee found its champion. Logan plans to travel with her family and then publish a book before she earns her high school diploma. Raju, like many others, plans to return next year, ready to face the vocabulary round and all the competition offers.