The discombobulating occurrence can befuddle and bollix one's cognizance.
WASHINGTON -- More than 250 pupils had one last chance Tuesday to hover over their spelling lists, get quizzed by their parents on words like staphylococci and prepare for the nail-biting pressure they will experience this week at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
The 78th annual bee will begin today in the Independence Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt and will feature spelling gurus from across the United States as well as Canada, Europe, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and New Zealand.
The 273 spellers, ranging in age from 9 to 14, won local competitions in school auditoriums and community centers in their respective regions before coming to Washington. Ellyanna Kessler, an eighth-grader from Boardman Center Middle School, qualified by winning the 72nd annual Vindicator Spelling Bee in March. Ellyanna and the others will compete for $22,000 in scholarship funds, an encyclopedia set, a visit to the White House and national media attention.
Gamut of participants
More than half of the spellers hail from public schools. Of the 100 who don't, 38 attend private schools, 34 are home-schooled, 25 attend parochial schools and three go to charter schools.
Four spellers will make their fourth appearance at the spelling bee. They include Katie Brown, of Stuart, Fla.; Joseph Shepherd of Waynesboro, Ga.; John Tamplin of Louisville, Ky.; and Katharine Close of Spring Lake, N.J.
Thirteen spellers will make their third appearance at the bee and 52 will make their second visit. Twenty-three spellers have had at least one relative who competed in previous national bees.
On Tuesday the spellers toured Washington with their parents and tried to forget about the impending stress. However, many admitted they were scared.
"I'm kind of worried about the spelling bee because there is going to be a lot of good competition," said Sami Hashmi of Vero Beach, Fla.
The championship rounds of the spelling bee will be broadcast live on ESPN from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, then again from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Those rounds will be shown again on ESPN2 on Sunday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and June 6 from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.