11 nerve-wracking images from the National Spelling Bee
Encyclopedic knowledge of words? Check. A stomach of steel? Here's hoping...
Vismaya Kharkar reacts with relief after correctly spelling a word, her ticket to the final round.
Vismaya Kharkar reacts with relief after correctly spelling a word, her ticket to the final round. REUTERS/Larry Downing

As if spelling words like bacciferous wasn't difficult enough, contestants in the Scripps National Spelling Bee are required for the first time in the competition's 88-year history to also define the vexing words given to them by judges.

The annual four-day competition, which comes to an end tonight, starts off with nearly 300 spellers from around the world, ranging in age from 8 to 14, and culminates in a final in which only one out-spells the rest in front of a national audience. The champion will win a $30,000 cash prize, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond, collections of dictionaries and encyclopedias, an engraved trophy, and serious bragging rights among middle schoolers and adults alike.

But to get to that illustrious point, the contestants have to endure plenty of nerve-wracking moments. Here, a visual tour of the event:

First, a test.

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

On May 28, North America's top students sat side-by-side in a crowded room to take a preliminary test. First, they spelled a series of words, then moved onto the vocabulary section, in which they defined words using multiple choice. All under 45 minutes.

Some 280 players passed the test. But the rounds leading up to the final were to be the most harrowing.

For two days, the young contestants waited...
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

(REUTERS/Larry Downing)

...endured disappointment...
(REUTERS/Larry Downing)

...and heartbreak...
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

...all in front of cameras...
(REUTERS/Larry Downing)

...and anxious parents...
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

...until there were just a few left...
(REUTERS/Larry Downing)

...but it was still anyone's game.
(REUTERS/Larry Downing)

Lauren Hansen is the multimedia editor at A graduate of Kenyon College and Northwestern University, she started her career in arts publishing and has since worked at media outlets including the BBC and Frontline.


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