OXON HILL, Md. (NewsNation) — What started with 234 kids has been whittled down to 12, one wrong letter at a time.
The 12 elementary to middle school students from around the country who know roughly 10 times the number of vocabulary words as the average adult will spell it out in hopes of becoming the next champion.
They may seem sweet, but the students competing in the 94th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee are ruthless.
The competition will bring a new champion after last year’s winner, 14-year-old Zailia Avant-Garde, captivated the country with her excitement. She became the first African American to win the prestigious competition.
This year’s spelling bee has already proven to be intense. When 14-year-old Chris Dominick was eliminated from Wednesday’s semifinals, he told those on the stage, “Goodbye, cruel world.”
One student ran off stage when she had to use the restroom mid-competition. Another competitor has been reinstated after successfully appealing that he was denied relevant root information for the word “leucovorin.”
Surya Kapu, a 13-year-old from South Jordan, Utah, misspelled the word during Wednesday’s last semifinal round. Leucovorin is defined as a medicine used to counteract the side effects of a cancer drug.
According to a statement from Scripps, its judges met for around two hours before making the rare decision to reinstate Kapu and give the teen a chance to compete in Round 7 with a new word. Kapu is a pupil of Cole Shafer-Ray, who coached last year’s champion.
But that’s not all fans are watching. A newly added multiple-choice portion has been highly contested by fans.
This year’s competition will be hosted by actor and literacy advocate LeVar Burton. The winner takes home a $50,000 cash prize, plus the respect of the nation.