The 76th Annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee was held May 28-29 in Washington, D.C. ESPN broadcast coverage of the event, which definitely falls under the leisure category of “sports and leisure,” throughout the weekend.
The spelling bee was actually more interesting than most people would think. There’s something kind of strange and fascinating about 10-year-olds who have taken the time to memorize the spellings of words like “marmoraceous” and “hypozeuxis,” while the majority of their peers were busy watching “Spongebob Squarepants.”
Spelling bees obviously do not require any athletic prowess, but mental dexterity is a must. When the contestants are up on stage spelling out words that most people have never even heard uttered, all eyes are on them. In athletic sports there are a variety of outside influences that can be blamed for screw-ups, but the spellers can’t really make any excuses. When they spell a word wrong, a little bell rings to signify their mistake and a condescending voice is quick to inform them of the correct spelling. One misspelling signifies elimination.
Most of the contestants looked like deer caught in the headlights as the camera zoomed in for close-ups, before cutting away to their parents in the audience – all of whom were inevitably capturing the moment with their own cameras.
It was common for the kids to stall as long as humanly possible before spelling each word. Desperately, they repeatedly asked the moderator for all pronunciations, definitions and origins of a word before beginning to spell it. Hypersensitivity to a foreign substance induced by a small preliminary injection of a substance? Oh yeah, that anaphylaxis.
Words given in the competition were taken from Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, which contains over 460,000 entries. Round one began with 251 spellers, but only 175 passed on to the next round. The field was narrowed down to 84 for the finals, which stretched out to 15 rounds and was eventually won by 13-year-old Texan, Sai Gunturi. He pocketed the $12,000 reward for correctly spelling the word “pococurate.”
When asked the secret of his success, Gunturi replied, “Actually, I started studying in fourth grade and I guess it’s kind of like cumulative study up to here.”
Fourteen-year-old Evelyn Blacklock came in at a close second after failing to recognize the silent “g” in gnathonic.