Viewers tuning into ESPN Thursday night won’t be greeted with baseball or sporting statistics — instead, along with hundreds of thousands, they’ll be hanging off the letters recited by 40 young students at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Maryland.
The sporting network, which has televised the later rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition for decades, will carry the Bee’s finals starting 8:30 p.m., featuring students from across the country and as far away as South Korea.
But no matter who wins, a South Florida student won’t be taking home the national spelling competition’s trophy this year.
Both 13-year-old Vasundara Govindarajan of Miami and 11-year-old Simone Kaplan of Davie were eliminated in Wednesday’s prelims. Simone, a fifth-grader at St. Bonaventure Catholic School, was stumped by the word “juridical,” related to judicial or legal proceedings. And though Vasundara made it through the oral spelling round with “curfuffle,” an alternative spelling of “kerfuffle,” she missed the cutoff for the finals after supplementary written tests, her father Muthiah said Wednesday.
For those looking for a home state contender to cheer for, two Floridians from Jacksonville and Orlando are still in the running for the nearly century-old contest.
Enthusiastic viewers can even bet on who might take home the $40,000 in cash and engraved trophy that are awarded to the national champion. According to the online betting site BetOnline.ag, odds are even that a boy or girl will take home Thursday’s prize and odds strongly favor a winner without glasses.
Bets on the site also narrowly suggest the winning word less than 11 letters long. But recent history is mixed: Last year’s winning word was “gesellschaft,” a 12-letter word referring to the loose social relationships one has to an organization or society. The year before? The 11-letter “Feldenkrais,” a type of exercise, and 7-letter “nunatak,” referring to a type of rock formation.
The year before that also featured two winning words with “scherenschnitte” and “stichomythia,” both clocking in at over the 11-letter limit.