A lot of pressure. High stakes Low levels of age.
A spell-off between 14-year-old Harini Logan and 12-year-old Vikram Raju concluded the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday after 18 rounds of intense competition finished in a stalemate.
The two have 90 seconds to correctly spell as many words as possible in that time period. There were more than 18 correct words in rapid-fire round, and judges had to look at the film for help determining which contestants were most accurate.
It was Logan’s fourth and final participation in the bee, and she emerged champion with a stunning 21 perfect spellings out of 25 in the lightning round. An all-in-person format was reinstated to the popular tournament for the first time since 2019, and the San Antonio resident was crowned champion. First three rounds of this year’s competition were held online due to a pandemic, and the 2020 event was cancelled.
There was a clear winner in the spelling bee, as Logan boldly spelt things that most people had never heard of while Raju came in second with 15 right spellings.
Two reinstatements in the finals were arguably a fitting end to a Bee that delivered more drama than any in recent memory. The three-hour tournament finished in an eight-way tie, which was seen a letdown in a culture that likes to celebrate single winners, and the lightning round appeared to be an attempt to erase that memory.
During the last two decades, the Bee has grown to be a sporting event on par with the best in the world, with contenders improving their focus and understanding of the material.
Six to ten hours a day is the amount of time Olympic gold champion Simone Biles devotes to her workouts. People are rethinking whether or not this popular game, which has been held since 1925, has grown too passionate or arcane because of the fervour of the culture.
For starters, most people watching the Bee have no idea what the late-round words featured, such as the crustacean scyllarian, the chemical compound pyrrolidone, and the flavonoid myricetin—none of which are often used words in everyday speech.
As the results of the spell-off were announced, the contenders were clearly feeling the strain. While Raju said he will return for his final year of eligibility, he was visibly shaken by the gravity of the situation. After all, he is just 12 years old.
In addition, this year was a more dramatic one than normal. Another contestant had to make an appeal after being eliminated in the semi-finals due to the fact that he was not given significant information regarding the root of the term. During the round where spellers have to explain the definition of a word, Logan was briefly eliminated. Even though her answer was initially deemed erroneous, the panel of judges later decided it could be applied to the word’s broader context.
This year’s return of the word-meaning round appears to be a response to concerns that the Spelling Bee has become too competitive and not educational enough.
Whether or not the candidates are genuinely learning anything or simply memorising is a question that has to be answered. As stated in the bee’s mission statement, “assist children improve their spelling, boost their vocabulary, acquire ideas and establish perfect English usage that will serve them all their lives.”
As with any 2022 challenge, there will be critics, and some of that criticism will be more in line with what’s said about sports these days—kids start performing sophisticated things too early and feel too much pressure. For the second year in a row, an 11-year-old has won the Bee. Even while there appear to be no immediate course corrections, it remains a nagging concern.
While the event has a lot going for it, it’s likely to be the lowest-rated in recent memory. Ion, a broadcaster with a huge reach but low viewership, is the new home of the Bee after a long run on ESPN. For the first time, it featured a celebrity host in the form of LeVar Burton.