Thu | Nov 26, 2020

Just under 300 battle for Spelling Bee prize

Published:Sunday | May 22, 2016 | 12:00 AMDave Rodney
Jamaica's delegate to the Scripps Howard Spelling Bee Championship - Chaunte Blackwood (centre), 13, from Ardenne High School with Roger Allen (left), coaching services director and Chaunte's mom, Trecia Blackwood.

The Gleaner's Children's Own Spelling Bee champion Chaunte Blackwood has already beaten the odds to get to the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee Championship.

She is among the top 0.000026 per cent of more than 11 million students who initially participated in spelling bees held across the United States and Canada, Puerto Rico, The US Virgin Islands, The Bahamas, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, and South Korea.

This year's championship, presented by Kindle, will start tomorrow and end on Thursday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.

Two hundred and eighty-five spellers are competing for the coveted title, and the equivalent of more than J$13 million in prize money is up for grabs for the top seven finalists.

The spellers range in age from six to 15.

Seventy spellers previously competed in the National Finals, one of whom is returning for the fourth time.

Twenty-nine spellers have relatives who previously participated, including two spellers whose brothers won the title in recent years.

"The Scripps National Spelling Bee has flourished in schools and on television," said Paige Kimble, executive director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

"We see on that stage bright, aspiring students who represent varied interests, experiences, and cultures. When they reach that microphone, they all share the common challenge of spelling some of the most difficult words in the English language," she added.

Apart from the rigours of spelling, a week of exciting activities has been planned for the youngsters, including a dazzling opening ceremony with music, lights, revelry, and special guests; a traditional picnic at the National Zoo; and a new, interactive Kindle Corner with an all-day free deluxe cereal bar, a lounge area to relax and read a favourite book, an alphabet soup foam pit, and a custom poster-creation station.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is the largest and longest-running educational programme in the United States. Its purpose is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts, and develop correct English usage that will serve them well for life. The contest will be broadcast live on Wednesday and Thursday on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN3.