The Scripps National Spelling Bee is here, and the competition is f-i-e-r-c-e.
Nearly 300 American kids are competing this week in National Harbor, Maryland, in hopes of becoming the 2016 Scripps spelling champion. The winner will receive more than $40,000, a library of reference materials, a Kindle, a dictionary, a trip to New York City and eternal glory.
It's no easy feat — last year's co-champions, Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam, won by spelling "nunatak" and "scherenschnitte." But it does make for some good TV, especially because this year's rules make it harder for the event to end in a tie.
If you don't have access to cable TV, you can watch a live stream online of the brilliant tweenagers do their thing Thursday. The first half of the finals kicks off at 10 a.m. EDT on ESPN2, and the second half starts at 8 p.m. EDT on ESPN. Make sure to follow along by watching the Twitter hashtag #spellingbee and check out highlights from the competition on YouTube here.
This year's contestants are mostly between the ages of 12 and 14, with the bulk of them being seventh and eighth graders, according to the bee's statistics page. One speller, Zander Reed, has competed at the bee four times now.
"It’s one of the most unique, odd clubs you can be in," 1984 winner Dan Greenblatt told the Guardian last year, added about the event: "They have a lot of these made-for-TV moments. And a lot of kids do these kind of funny things when they get something right or something wrong."
Previous winning words have included "feuilleton," which is part of a newspaper, "appoggiatura," which is a musical note, "milieu," which is a social environment, "shalloon," which is a kind of fabric, and "cerise," which is a shade of red.
“I will do my best and leave everything on the table and leave it all to God," contestant Chaunte Blackwood told Caribbean News Now.