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Excitement builds as 96th Scripps National Spelling Bee kicks off

The spellers are coming in from all 50 states and places as far away as Europe, Africa and the Caribbean.
Spelling Bee
Posted at 12:22 PM, May 27, 2024

Under the bright lights, 245 spellers will take the stage this week at National Harbor, near Washington, D.C., for the 96th Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The spellers are coming in from all 50 states and from countries in places as far away as Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. All of them are part of the competition's largest group of spellers in five years. Among them is 13-year-old Oviya Amalraj of Virginia.

"I like how it's just you focus on the word and there's an order to how you do it," she said.

This will be her second time at the Bee, after reaching 23rd place last year. This year, the black belt in taekwondo hopes to kick her way into the top spot by applying some of the skills she's learned in that martial art.

"I liked how it was like physical and you had to focus a lot," Oviya said of her interest in tae kwon do.

While she spends some of her free time on the guitar and the piano, Oviya is not the only musician buzzing their way to this year's Bee. Ethan Dunlap, of North Carolina, is another speller who also moonlights as a musician.

"I actually picked it up back in the 7th grade. My dad used to be a saxophone player," Ethan said. "My great-grandfather also played the saxophone. So, I just carried the traits, I guess, and I got pretty good at it."

For Ethan, 12, this will be his first trip to the Bee, and he was thrilled to find out he qualified after winning his local spelling bee.

"Oh my gosh! I've won and I'm getting to go to the Scripps National Spelling Bee!" he recalled. "It's really awesome. I can't wait to go out there and spell my best."

It's a chance Ethan and his fellow spellers are about to get.

The spelling bee begins in earnest Tuesday, with all 245 competitors getting their chance to spell on stage during the preliminary round.

From there, the field will slowly dwindle through the quarterfinals and semifinals on Wednesday, before Thursday night's final round and the crowning of a new Bee champion. Watch it all here.

Scripps News is a subsidiary of the E.W. Scripps Company, which also runs the Bee on a not-for-profit basis.