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The National Spelling Bee – A Time-Honored Tradition

Both contestants stayed cool under the pressure of the first-ever lighting round tiebreaker.

By:  |  June 7, 2022  |    504 Words
GettyImages-1241065933 Harini Logan spelling bee

Harini Logan (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

It all came down to a seven-letter word for a little aquatic bird: moorhen. This was the winning word spelled in the final contest between 14-year-old Texan Harini Logan and rival wordsmith, 12-year-old Vikram Raju from Colorado.

After several elimination rounds, the two left standing on the stage faced off in a “lightning” round. Logan wowed the audience – in person and on television – at the Scripps National Spelling Bee, winning the competition after the first-of-its-kind “Spell Off.” Holding a well-deserved trophy and a check for $50,000, Logan said, “I think [its] honestly so surreal, it’s my fourth time at the Bee. This is such a dream.”

Grace Under Pressure

GettyImages-1241066678 Harini Logan

Harini Logan (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Spell Off – or lightning round – was a new addition to the Bee, giving participants a way to shine under pressure. The Spell Off calls for both finalists to be given the same exact words to spell in 90 seconds for the win. Raju claimed 15 words out of 26, but it wasn’t enough to beat Logan’s 22 accurate spellings.

Both Logan and Raju stayed calm, despite the pressure of the tiebreaker. As Logan told newscasters the next day, “It was really just getting into that mindset where I could have that, just calmness, where I could focus on the words rather than getting stressed out.” Well, it worked for the teen, who gave most of the credit to her mom for being her spelling coach, “my mom is sort of my coach,” Logan told Good Morning America the next day. “It takes a lot of commitment … and, of course, a passion for the spelling bee.”

The Scripps Bee – Work And Dedication

The National Spelling Bee is the longest-running and most prestigious educational contest in the nation. Launched in 1925, the Bee hosts hundreds of kids from all over the United States – with a few other countries represented – in Washington, D.C. It is a long road for kids and parents who make it to the finals, sacrificing free time and other activities for the intense study of words. In some cases, Bee participants have admitted they tried to memorize every word in a 3,000-page dictionary.

Tweaking Tradition

After the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bee is gaining strength again. In 2019 there were 562 contestants. In 2020 the Bee was canceled. In 2021, there were only 209 challengers and a few rule changes: Scripps added the “word meaning” and the “spell-off” contests to test the mettle of finalists.

This year the Bee gained momentum, with 234 contestants and 12 making it to the finals.

Americans are still excited to watch the Bee, and the new host, actor LeVar Burton, was amongst those eager to be involved. He said he was “honored” to be a part of the event and stated: “Like a lot of folks, I look forward to the competition every year and am excited to be a part of this wonderful tradition that celebrates excellence.”

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