NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Manu Nair is one of 13 spellers making a third appearance at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Only four students in this year’s bee have appeared more often – one is a five-year repeater, and three are back for a fourth time.
Manu, who likes to study Greek and French when he’s not spelling, said that this year will be more challenging than before because of the change in format. In the competition’s first round Tuesday, spellers took a written spelling and vocabulary test.
Last year, they listened to words over headphones and submitted their answers on a computer. This year, the bee’s popular pronouncer Jacques A. Bailly read the words aloud, and the spellers wrote their answers on a form that can be read by a computer.
“It’s overwhelming, I mean, it’s the third time I’ve been here, but it’s also the last time, so it’s more of a serious experience and something that I look forward to,” said Manu, who previously competed in 2012 and 2013. “I guess I just want to do the best I can.”
Manu’s mother, Lekha Nair, said she and her family watch the spelling bee every year, even when Manu isn’t competing.
“We are spelling bee fans,” Nair said. “We love spelling bee, we love watching it and we love being part of it. He lost last year, but still, we were keenly following it until the finals.”
Though he’s taken the spelling bee stage in prior years, Manu said he’s excited to once again be a part of the nationally televised contest.
“It’s cool how ESPN is doing it,” he said. “How many people can say they’ve been on ESPN?”
All 285 spellers took a written spelling and vocabulary test Tuesday morning. Spellers take the stage for Round 2 at 8 a.m. Wednesday Those who spell their words correctly spell again on stage in the afternoon. ESPN3 will televise the competition beginning at 8 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. EDT.
At about 5 p.m., bee officials will announce the names of a maximum of 50 spellers to advance to the semifinals. They are chosen based on the points they earn for correctly spelling words on stage and their scores on the written test. ESPN 2 will broadcast the semifinals beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday.
The finals will air Thursday at 8 p.m. EDT on ESPN. The winner takes home $35,000 in cash, a trophy and other prizes.
Reach reporter Flavio Del Pino at [email protected] or 202-408-1489. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits to SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.