National Spelling Bee 2021 to return to virtual format

The Scripps National Spelling Bee will return to a mostly virtual format this year, with the in-person contest limited to a dozen finalists who will gather at the ESPN campus in Walt Disney World, Florida, Scripps announced Monday.

Last year’s bee was canceled due to a coronavirus pandemic, the first to be discontinued after World War II. Organizers said they did not believe it would be possible at the Bee’s longtime venue – a convention center outside of Washington – for the general date of the competition around Memorial Day this year.

Instead of compressing the entire competition in a week – the spelling regularly refers to bee week as the highlight of their young lives – the bee will be pulled for several weeks. The preliminary round will be held in mid-June, the semi-finals on 27 June and the ESPN-televised final on 8 July.

“We left early on the idea of ​​Bee Week because we knew we couldn’t bring hundreds of people safely to one place,” Bee’s interim executive director Carolyn Michelli told the Associated Press ahead of the announcement.

He said, “We came up with what I think is a very exciting and creative way of structuring the competition over several weeks that will be fun for the kids, build excitement, and I think it’s a difficult situation.” Is a great way to deal with it, ”she said. .

The cancellation of last year’s Bee was a particularly brutal blow to the eighth-grade men who missed out on their last opportunity to compete after years of preparation. Top spellers regularly study obscure words, roots and language patterns for hours a day and sacrifice other activities and social lives for the chance to become national champions. Spellers are no longer eligible after reaching high school.

“A lot of spellers, including me, were really heartbroken when we didn’t really get a chance to go to Scripps and have that wonderful experience again that whole week,” said 12-year-old Harini Logan. From San Antonio that hopes for this year.

Last summer several online bees were hired by other organizations To give those eighth-graders an opportunity, But none of those events held the reputation of the ESPN-Television Scripps competition, with its $ 50,000 top prize, national media appearances, and nearly 100 years of history.

“I never really stopped or slowed down,” Harini said of bee preparations. “I have tried to keep up the pace and study of my work as consistently as I can keep it during these uncertain times.”

Scripps surveyed Spellers and their families about what they would like to see in the 2021 Bee, and an overwhelming majority said they just wanted assurances that the competition would be held in some form, with Bee’s Editorial Director Corey Loeffler said.

The bee will be limited to around 200 spellers – a 64% decrease from the 2019 event, which had 562 participants, and about half that number planned for 2020. A wild-card event was brought in 2018 as an opportunity. More spellers from highly competitive regions have been discontinued, meaning that most spellers will have to use the traditional qualification route of the winning regional bees.

Spellers who live in areas that lack sponsored regional bees can compete and earn on nationals through online qualifying bees hosted by Cincinnati-based Scripps.

Another change: 50 or so semifinalists will have no written spelling and vocabulary test to narrow the field. Despite the virtual format, Bee will return to its roots as a purely oral spelling competition. This means that Scripps will have to use more challenging words early on.

In the 2019 Bee, the words used in the final round became a major issue. Scripps used the toughest words on his list to identify just a group of prime-time finalists, and the Bees ended in an eight-way tie because the organizers didn’t want the contest to be decided by physical endurance Go because it was pulled late at night. This result criticized those who said that scrips depended too much Words that entertain TV viewers But do not present meaningful challenges to the spellers.

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