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Scripps National Spelling Bee has record number of spellers for 2018

Event to air on television May 29-31
Scripps National Spelling Bee has record number of spellers for 2018
Posted at 9:00 AM, May 22, 2018

More than 500 spellers will have a chance to compete for the title of Champion at this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is May 29-31 in National Harbor, Maryland.

This record number of spellers, 516, comes with the introduction of RSVBee, an invitational program that has created more opportunities for champion spellers to compete in the national finals. The Bee invited 238 qualified spellers through RSVBee.

Sponsors of regional bees wrapped up their local events in April, with 278 local champions qualifying for the national finals.

“Bee Week is a special experience that challenges the mind and warms the heart,” said Paige Kimble, executive director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. “To welcome more spellers than ever to compete exemplifies the evolution of our program and the vast interest from families across the country. With RSVBee, we are leveling the playing field for national finals qualification and providing more opportunities for students to experience all the thrills, friendships and memories that come from the event.”

To qualify for RSVBee, spellers had to win their school spelling bee or be a former national finalist and attend a school enrolled in the Bee program. Parents applied on behalf of their child and paid a $750 participation fee to accept an invitation.  

About the 2018 spellers

The 516 spellers registered for the 2018 Bee come from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Department of Defense Schools in Europe and eight other countries: the Bahamas, Canada, Ghana, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom. 

The spellers range in age from 8 to 15. For the first time, there are two sets of identical twins competing. A total of 113 spellers have previous experience competing in the national finals. Forty-five spellers have relatives who previously participated in a combined 99 Scripps National Spelling Bees, including Atman Balakrishnan, a sixth-grader from Chicago, whose father, Balu Natarajan, is the 1985 Champion.

12-year-old crowned championship speller at 2017 Bee
Photos: 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Bee Week schedule

After registering on Sunday, May 27, all spellers and their families will enjoy a Memorial Day picnic and Opening Ceremony on Monday, May 28. The Preliminaries Test will take place the morning of Tuesday, May 29, followed immediately by onstage spelling for Round Two.

Students who spell correctly in Round Two will advance to Round Three on Wednesday, May 30. Scores tabulated from the Preliminaries will determine the no more than 50 spellers who advance to the Finals on Thursday, May 31. The Bee will crown the Champion(s) from the dozen or so spellers who advance to the Thursday night Finals, broadcast live, on ESPN.

The prizes for the Champion include:

  • $40,000 cash prize (if co-champs, both winners get $40,000)
  • Engraved trophy
  • $2,500 cash prize and complete reference library from Merriam-Webster
  • Reference works and three-year online membership from Encyclopaedia Britannica
  • Trip to New York City to appear on “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” which airs weekday mornings in national syndication
  • Trip to Hollywood to appear on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” which airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. Eastern/10:35 Central (pending availability)
  • A pizza party for the Champion’s school presented by Pizza Hut

Dr. Seuss’s Word Challenge:

The Bee is partnering with Random House Children’s Books and Dr. Seuss Enterprises to participate in the first-ever Dr. Seuss’s Word Challenge, a contest focused on building a love of reading in children of all ages and helping to prevent the summer reading slide.

Related events during Bee Week will include a Word-a-Thon for spellers, their families and fans to contribute to the goal of reading 20 million words; a Dr. Seuss-themed spelling bee; and other activities involving the Dr. Seuss Bus that will be on site during Bee Week. For information on the challenge, visit and register as a participant. Follow along with the zany fun using #SeussWordChallenge.

Activities for all participants in the Bee this year:

• The traditional Memorial Day picnic will take place at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.

• Monday night’s Opening Ceremony will celebrate the core values of the Bee, feature an appearance by 2017 Champion Ananya Vinay and provide valuable competition information for spellers.

• Fans can connect with every word of the competition along with behind-the-scenes excitement through the Bee’s social channels. Twitter delivers the word-by-word action of the competition. Facebook Live, hosted by Jamal Andress of Newsy, features interviews with spellers during breaks from the event. Fans of the Bee also can engage on Instagram and YouTube.

• The Bee posts daily photos to Flickr during Bee Week. The photos are searchable by speller number. Example: Use “2018speller10” to view photos of Speller 10. Please give photo credit to: Mark Bowen/Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The Bee on ESPN

For the 25th consecutive year, ESPN and its family of channels will provide coverage of the Bee. Onstage spelling follows this schedule (all times Eastern):

Tuesday, May 29:

• Round Two runs from 9:15 a.m. to about 5:20 p.m. (streaming live on the ESPN App).

Wednesday, May 30:

• Round Three from 8 a.m. to about 5 p.m. (streaming live on the ESPN App).

The announcement of Finalists is at about 5:10 p.m. (streaming live on the ESPN App).

Thursday, May 31:

The Finals begin at 10 a.m. and run until about 2 p.m. (watch live on ESPN2; play along on ESPNU; and streaming live on the ESPN App).

After a break, the primetime Finals continue from 8:30-10:30 p.m. (watch live on ESPN; play along on ESPNU; and streaming live on the ESPN App).

“Bee” Informed

Information about the Scripps National Spelling Bee is available on and through a new event app (Scripps National Spelling Bee) available in the App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android. Both resources offer information about the spellers and the competition. The website also features the Bee’s history (91 years), the Bee Blog, a sample test, and during Bee Week, round results and regular competition updates.

Additional information for this year’s national finals:

  • Merriam-Webster Unabridged is the official source of words for the Bee.
  • The Preliminaries Test is on Tuesday, May 29. The multiple-choice test includes 12 spelling words and 14 vocabulary questions. The results of the test, in large part, determine who advances to the Thursday Finals. View this video for more details.
  • Bee officials will administer a multiple-choice Tiebreaker Test to all spellers remaining in the competition at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 31. The test will consist of 12 spelling words and 12 vocabulary questions.
  • If it becomes mathematically impossible for a single winner to emerge through the administration of a maximum 25 consecutive rounds involving three or fewer spellers, Bee officials will disclose the Tiebreaker Test scores of the remaining spellers. The judges will declare the speller with the highest score the Champion. In the event of a tie for the highest Tiebreaker Test score, the judges will declare the spellers with the tying highest scores co-Champions.