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Scripps National Spelling Bee returns, local speller prepares for competition

The bee was canceled last year due to COVID
Posted at 5:43 PM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 18:43:37-04

OMAHA, Ne. (KMTV) — Starting Saturday, June 12, over 200 students will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee to see who has mastered the most words.

"Scripps National Spelling Bee is iconic," Michael Durnil, Executive Director of the bee, said. "It’s amazing to me how many people remember the word they lost in their own championship race. It’s quintessential Americana. It’s something anyone can participate in and that’s something that’s part of my agenda as the new executive director is to make sure that any student anywhere in the country that catches us on television or hears about it can see themselves in the future of the bee."

Last year, the bee was canceled for the first time since World War II, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. While organizers are excited to bring the competition back, they have made some changes. The first three rounds of competition will be virtual.

"Many people don’t realize the spelling bee is a year-long program. So we work with schools starting every fall, starting with their school level bees, getting them ready to advance to local bees to district to regional bees. We have pivoted starting last fall with going virtual for our spellers and for our local sponsors and the schools," Durnil said.

Organizers sent out equipment that will be controlled remotely in order to ensure spellers won't be penalized due to technology.

"We’ve made a lot of adjustments focused on making sure the speller feels very comfortable in their own environment and making sure they have equal access to everything," Durnil said.

Spellers will have a proctor during virtual rounds.

Local speller Hannah Fernandes is excited to compete in this year's bee — especially since this is her last year of eligibility.

"I started in fourth grade. I didn’t really know that spelling was something I was good at but I ended up winning my school bee, district bee, regional bee and I ended up making it to nationals that year which was my first year," Fernandes said.

Fernandes said she enjoys studying the English language.

"I just kind of study, like, how different languages and their patterns...I do word stems and I quiz myself and my mom helps me," Fernandes said. "I like learning really strange words, they’re just kind of fun to work with. I like spelling Greek, stem-based words because they’re not that hard to guess if you know what’s going into it. I don’t like French it’s really hard."

The top 10 to 12 spellers will compete in person at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on July 8.

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