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2 Big Changes Update National Spelling Bee
May 28, 2013

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The National Spelling Bee is on again in Washington, D.C. The three-day event will feature 281 contestants vying for the right to succeed Snigdha Nandipati of California as national champion.

All 50 American states, as well as American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have sent representatives. Other contestants have come from the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, and South Korea.

The oldest contestants are 14. The youngest is 8-year-old Tara Singh, of Kentucky. (She is not the youngest-ever competitor. That honor still belongs to Lori Madison, who represented Virginia in the 2012 event.)

The early rounds will be streamed online, at ESPN3.com. The semifinals (ESPN2) and finals (ESPN) will be broadcast live on television.

One big change this year will be the addition of a vocabulary component, which contestants will complete on computers in a room separate from the main spelling room.

Another change is the advent of rapid-fire eliminations. Contestants won't get a second chance. One misspelling is the ticket to a permanent seat in the audience.

Other facts:

  • A full 116 of the 281 contestants speak more than one language.
  • Two contestants, Vanya Shivashankar and Ashwin Veeramani, are siblings of previous winners. Their siblings Kavya Shivashankar and Anamika Veeramani won in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
  • The field is 52 percent girls and 48 percent boys.
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